Taxpayers have invested a "colossal" 29,344 hours of legal work into the Megaupload and Kim Dotcom legal cases - equivalent to $5.8 million in fees, the Crown Law Office has confirmed.
Of that, two-thirds of the hours have gone into the extradition request from the United States - the hearing of which finally starts on Monday.
It has been 1337 days since the January 2012 raid saw the arrest of Dotcom and three others at the request of the United States on charges of criminal copyright violations. The charges related to the operation of the filesharing website Megaupload.
A string of delays and legal arguments from the Crown, the United States and Dotcom and his co-accused have led to the extradition hearing being delayed 10 times. It starts on Monday with legal arguments and is expected to get underway properly on Thursday.
The huge legal muscle that has gone into the case has astonished University of Auckland law professor Dr Bill Hodge. "Extraordinary is an understatement. It stands alone. There is no one else on the podium."
He said the case had brought incredible scrutiny on the extradition law from "the best legal minds in New Zealand".
"Many other jurisdictions would have crumpled," he said. "Our system coped with one of these but let's hope we don't get another one."
The 29,344 hours that have gone into the case are almost the equivalent of a taxpayer-funded lawyer working on the case every hour of every day, seven days a week, since the raid.
Aside from the Crown Law Office lawyers, the figure includes 3026 hours of external legal assistance from barristers. Queen's Counsel Christine Gordon has been the barrister drawn on most frequently.
The total cost, given base rates for Crown solicitors are $198 an hour, is at least $5.8 million.
The case has also seen extraordinary legal focus from those sought for extradition. Dotcom's current lawyer Ron Mansfield, a former Barrister of the Year, took over from Paul Davison, QC. Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk are represented by Grant Illingworth, QC, and previously by the highly regarded Guyon Foley. Dotcom was estimated to have spent $10 million on his defence.
The Weekend Herald spoke to one of the lesser-known accused, Megaupload's former sales director Finn Batato, who cannot afford a lawyer and will be defending himself. Since the raid he has fallen in love, married Anastasia Murray and become father to their two sons.
He said the delays had placed huge pressure on the young family for a case he believed should never have brought criminal charges.
Batato said he expected appeals no matter who was successful. "It can't drag on indefinitely. Maybe another two years, if not more. I don't dare to predict any timings any more. I never thought it would take this long."
The delays to the hearing have seen arguments over what evidence can be produced, how the extradition legislation works, legality of search warrants and a host of other issues. The Court of Appeal drew a line under further delays this month saying District Court Judge Nevin Dawson would deal with outstanding issues as part of the extradition hearing.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Finlayson said he was satisfied with how the Crown Law Office had conducted the cases. She said it had not received any additional funding or staff for the workload.
Dotcom will also be centre of another court case on Monday with an application to the Hong Kong courts for the release of $30 million. It follows a Hong Kong judge throwing out the initial legal order gained by the United States in 2012 which froze the $50 million Dotcom had saved there.