Years after the FBI forced the closure of the Hong Kong-based storage site Megaupload, two staffers have been sentenced to prison.

The New Zealand Herald reported on Thursday that the High Court in Auckland has now imposed prison sentences on both Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, after both men pleaded guilty.

However it seems that both men received lesser prison sentence in a deal in which they promised to testify against the site’s founder Kim Dotcom.

Prison sentences

According to the New Zealand Herald, Justice Sally Fitzgerald told Mathias Ortmann he was sentenced to a sentence of two years and seven months in prison.

Bram van der Kolk on the other hand is to serve two years and six months.

The sentences were handed down after substantial discounts for guilty pleas, assistance to the FBI and rehabilitation efforts – significantly down from around 10 years, the newspaper reported.

The prison sentence was briefly deferred to allow Ortmann to be present for the birth of his second child and for van der Kolk to spend time with his seriously ill mother who was currently in New Zealand.

The Crown consented to the delay until 1 August.

Ortmann was reportedly the chief technology officer and had hands-on leadership roles at Megaupload. He earned $19m through the site and held 25 percent of Megaupload’s shares.

Van der Kolk meanwhile was in charge of software programming and the rewards scheme that was fundamental to its income stream. He held 2.5 percent in shares and reportedly earned $3m.

Megaupload takedown

Both van der Kolk and Ortmann had been arrested 11 years ago in the global FBI operation that took down Megaupload, which at one stage had attracted 4 percent of the world’s internet traffic thanks to its easy access to copyrighted films, music, television shows and video games.

US authorities alleged that Dotcom, Ortmann, van der Kolk and a fourth Megaupload executive had cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material.

Megaupload was closed down in early 2012 after the FBI applied for an indictment against the site and its operators for racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, and other charges.

The FBI had sought to extradite those arrested in 2012, which included company chief executive and primary shareholder Kim Dotcom, marketing director Finn Batato, as well as Ortmann and van der Kolk.

Finn Batato has reported died of cancer, and Ortmann and van der Kolk struck a deal in which they pleaded guilty and serve their prison time in New Zealand.

Kim Dotcom

However the US battle to extradite Kim Dotcom to its jurisdiction continues.

German-born Dotcom has a New Zealand residency, and has spent over a decade fighting his extradition to the United States.

The trial of the colourful Kim Dotcom over the years has been entertaining to say the least.

He insisted on bringing his own chair into the court room, citing “ergonomic reasons”, and even at one point filed an application for former US President Barack Obama to appear in court during his visit to the country.

When Megaupload was closed down in 2012, Dotcom had been arrested by New Zealand police on orders from the US. His mansion in New Zealand had also been raided.

However Dotcom repeatedly won subsequent legal tussles that delayed his extradition to the United States.

For example in June 2012, a New Zealand High Court declared the search warrants used in the raid on Dotcom’s mansion were “invalid”. Then in May 2013, Dotcom regained access to evidence seized during those raids.

And in September 2012, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, apologised to Dotcom for unlawfully spying on him. New Zealand law prohibits spying on citizens or those who, like Dotcom, have a residence class visa.

Kim Dotcom began his latest battle in the Supreme Court in New Zealand in June 2019 against his extradition to the United States.

In November 2020, New Zealand’s Supreme Court ruled that Dotcom could be returned to the US to face copyright charges.

But the NZ Supreme court also overturned another lower court’s decision, which effectively granted Dotcom the right to appeal.

Dotcom continues to fight the US charges and his extradition, and he has always made clear he is not going to leave New Zealand voluntarily.

Good for them

Dotcom took to Twitter to comment on the prison sentences for his former workmates.

He said on Twitter that the ruling meant his co-defendants could be free on parole in less than a year “instead of the 185 years we were charged with. Good for them”.

He said both defendants were tired of fighting, but as for his own case: “My fight goes on.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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