The New Zealand judge due to hear the extradition case of Kim Dotcom, the Megaupload founder accused of masterminding a huge copyright infringement conspiracy, has stepped down after he referred to the US as the “enemy”.
Auckland district court judge David Harvey made the comment, which was recorded and posted on the internet, at a conference in Auckland last week. During a discussion about New Zealand’s copyright laws and how they could be affected by trade talks with the US, Mr Harvey, a specialist in internet law, told the audience: “We have met the enemy and he is [the] US”
Jan-Marie Doogue, the district court’s chief judge, said Mr Harvey had offered to step down.
“He recognises that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent internet conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down from the case,” he said.
The US Department of Justice is seeking to extradite Mr Dotcom, the 38-year-old founder of file sharing website Megaupload, and several colleagues from New Zealand to face charges of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering. The last two charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.
The DoJ has accused Mr Dotcom and his associates of making more than $175m in illegal profits from a worldwide internet piracy enterprise that has cost copyright owners more than $500m.