Six other executives, who are residents of Germany, Slovakia, Hong Kong, Estonia, Turkey, the Netherlands and New Zealand, were also charged. Three of the indicted individuals remain at large.
The indictment, which caps a two-year investigation, was handed up by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia. Charges included criminal copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering.
Law enforcement officials executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight other countries and seized about $50 million in assets. They targeted sites where Megaupload has servers, including two local companies - Carpathia Hosting in Ashburn and Cogent Communications in the District - as well as others in the Netherlands and Canada, the officials said. The U.S. District Court in Alexandria also ordered the seizure of 18 domain names associated with the alleged conspiracy.
Ira Rothken, an attorney for Megaupload, denied the charges and said the company would “vigorously defend itself” in a criminal case, adding that “we believe we will succeed.”
He said that the Hong Kong-based company was surprised by the indictment and that it had never been contacted by the FBI to defend itself.
“There was a complete lack of notice and opportunity to be heard by Megaupload, and therefore that raises serious due process concerns that the government could shut down an entire series of Web sites without a court hearing either side,” Rothken said.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead author of the anti-piracy bill called the Protect IP Act (PIPA), praised the Justice Department’s actions.
“Today’s action by the Department of Justice against the leaders of Megaupload.com shows what law enforcement can do to protect American intellectual property that is stolen through domestic Web sites,” Leahy said.
But opponents of the anti-piracy bills — PIPA in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House — were alarmed about the agency’s actions…
…Casey Rae-Hunter of the Future of Music Coalition, a group that represents artists and has fought against the bills, said the indictment raises the question of whether legislation was needed “if law enforcement can go ahead and seize this site.”