Feds Shutter Megaupload, Arrest Executives

(WIRED)   Megaupload, the popular file-sharing site, was shuttered Thursday and its executives indicted by the Justice Department in what the authorities said was “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.”

Seven individuals connected to the Hong Kong-based site were indicted on a variety of charges, including criminal copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Four of the members of what the authorities called a “racketeering conspiracy” were arrested Thursday in Aucklund, New Zealand, the authorities said.

One of those arrested was Kim Schmitz, aka Kim Dotcom, Megaupload’s director. His attorney, Ira Rothken of California, said neither he nor his client was given the opportunity to surrender. Kim was arrested without notice, he said.

“We’re looking into what’s going on,” Rothken said in a telephone interview.

Vistiors to the Megaupload site, which gets about 50 million hits daily, were greeted with a message from the Justice Department.  ”This domain name associated with the website Megaupload.com has been seized pursuant to an order issued by a U.S. District Court.”

The government said the site facilitated copyright infringement of movies “often before their theatrical release, music, television programs, electronic books, and business and entertainment software on a massive scale.”

The indictment came as the Justice Department said it seized 18 domains in all connected to Megaupload. The agency said it executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight countries, seizing $50 million in assets.

Megaupload, which charges its 150 million members for its file-sharing service, was on the recording and movie industries most-hated lists, often being accusing of facilitating wanton infringement of their members’ copyrights.

Those indicted include:

*Finn Batato, 38, a citizen and resident of Germany, chief marketing officer.
*Julius Bencko, 35, a citizen and resident of Slovakia, graphic designer.
*Sven Echternach, 39, a citizen and resident of Germany, head of business development.

More information to come.


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