Megaupload founder poses 'extreme' bail flight risk

A judge in New Zealand has put off his decision on bail for Kim Dotcom until Wednesday, after hearing the cyberlocker founder was arrested last week in possession of an unlicensed shotgun
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is at extreme risk of skipping bail, prosecutors argued in a court in New Zealand on Monday.

Kim Dotcom

Prosecutors have argued that Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is a flight risk, after he was arrested in New Zealand last week. Screenshot: Greg Sandoval/CNET News

Dotcom and three others — Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk — were arrested last week as part of an international FBI-co-ordinated swoop on file-sharing site Megaupload, its proprietors and their assets. The raid followed an investigation that lasted over a year.

Judge David McNaughton said he is putting off a bail judgement on Dotcom until Wednesday. "Given the breadth of the issues and the seriousness of the issues, I'm going to reserve my decision," he said in Auckland's North Shore District Court, according to ZDNet UK sister site ZDNet Australia.

Prosecution lawyers, who want Dotcom extradited to the US, argued that Dotcom is "at the extreme end of the scale" when it comes to bail flight risk, due to his financial resources and multiple identities. Dotcom acquired his surname by deed poll, having been born in Germany as Kim Schmitz.

His defence has maintained that his distinctive appearance — the 37-year-old is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 130kg — means he will not be able to pass through customs and immigration unrecognised. Dotcom's wife is also reportedly about to give birth.

Megaupload was a prominent cyberlocker, allowing people to store their files online. These services have many legitimate uses, such as helping people share large files that are too big for email, but their sharing functionality also makes them attractive to those wishing to unlawfully share copyrighted content.

In the case of Megaupload, US and other authorities allege the site did not properly respond to takedown requests from rights holders and instead deliberately profited off copyright infringement, charging users to make their uploads easier to share and offering cash rewards for those who downloaded the most.

Dotcom's bail case has not been helped by the way in which he resisted arrest. When the police came to his mansion, he apparently ran into a safe room, closing electronically locked doors behind him.

He also had an unlicensed shotgun with him when he was arrested, although his lawyers claim the registration was the responsibility of his bodyguard. The prosecution claims it was an illegal sawn-off shotgun.

Seized assets

According to the International Business Times, Dotcom assets seized by the FBI include "bank accounts, PayPal accounts, 15 Mercedes-Benz vehicles, a Rolls-Royce [Phantom] with the licence plate 'GOD', a rare Lamborghini and a Maserati". The New Zealand Herald adds a "pink 1959 Cadillac" to that list.

Megaupload was registered as a Hong Kong company. The Hong Kong customs authorities said on Friday they have seized a "large number of digital evidence and over HK$300 million [£25m] worth of crime proceeds".

"During the investigation, it was found that the hotel rooms rented by the syndicate for office use and rest area were luxury suite rooms, which cost HK$100,000-odd per day," the customs officials said in a statement. "Besides, the room was equipped with a number of large-scale high-speed servers and large-model TV screens, which are suspected to be in connection with the case."

Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.
Editorial standards