US authorities have failed in their quest to keep Kim Dotcom, the founder and CEO of the file-sharing site Megaupload, behind bars in New Zealand. The site is alleged to have netted US$175m through the distribution of copyright-infringing movies and music.
A New Zealand court has today released him from jail. Instead, Dotcom, whose real name is Kim Schmitz, is now under house arrest, plus he is also banned from using the internet. The judge ruled that the authorities have seized any funds Dotcom could have used to flee New Zealand.
Dotcom had been remanded in custody until a US extradition application was due to be launched today (22 February).
Armed police swooped in on Dotcom at his mansion in Coatesville, Auckland, on 20 January. The police were acting on behalf of the FBI and the US Department of Justice.
The FBI charged Dotcom and six other people for running an “international organised criminal enterprise”, the Hong Kong-based file-hosting and sharing site Megaupload and other related sites.
It was one in one of the largest-ever criminal copyright cases ever brought by US authorities.
Second bail attempt
Today’s court hearing was Dotcom’s second bail attempt. Back on 3 February, his initial bail appeal was denied by a judge in the High Court in Auckland, as it was feared Dotcom would flee the country. Dotcom has German and Finnish passports, so if he managed to return to his native Germany, he would have been safe from extradition attempts by the US. He was also granted New Zealand residency in 2010.
So what did the 38-year-old have to say for himself after today’s court ruling?
“I’m relieved to go home and see my three little kids and my pregnant wife,” said Dotcom. He also said he would be fighting US extradition attempts.
Now, Dotcom must tone down his lavish lifestyle a notch. Under the bail conditions, he must now abide in a small house near the mansion he rented. He’ll also have to wear an electronic tag to keep tabs on his whereabouts, as Dotcom will have restrictions on how far he can travel. And because he owns a helicopter, the judge today also banned such crafts from flying or landing near the property.