A judge has ruled that the internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom can be extradited from New Zealand to the US to face criminal charges which if proven, could land the Megaupload founder in prison for 20 years.

US authorities have pursued Dotcom for five years after his file-sharing website was shut down.

He and three of his colleagues face charges of conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering amid claims that the site earned up to $175m (£140m) as it allowed people to illegally download films, music and TV shows.

Dotcom, who was born in Germany as Kim Schmitz, denies wrongdoing, insisting that Megaupload tried to stop copyright infringement but could not be held liable for what its 50 million daily users did.

The New Zealand High Court judge Justice Murray Gilbert agreed with a verdict passed by a district court in 2015 that Dotcom and the others should be extradited. It will likely be appealed and go to the country's Supreme Court.

His lawyer Ron Mansfield said: "Look, we're disappointed it's not all over in the high court," Mansfield said. "But we're one step away, as far as we're concerned, from winning outright," Associated Press reported.

Dotcom has been a controversial figure in New Zealand where he holds permanent residency. He started another internet file-sharing company called Mega and also fought in the country's national election in 2014.

The US also wants to extradite former Megaupload officers Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato.

Kim Dotcom
German tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom sits in a chair during a court hearing in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 2015 Reuters