AUCKLAND, New Zealand — File-sharing magnate Kim Dotcom was granted bail Wednesday morning New Zealand time, after the judge hearing his application ruled that the Megaupload founder has no access to funds to help him flee the country.
As part of the bail conditions, Dotcom must reside at his leased Coatesville, Auckland mansion. He cannot travel more than 80 kilometers, or 50 miles, from the Coatesville residence on which no helicopters are allowed. Earlier bail applications by Dotcom failed as he was thought to have access to helicopters and chartered private jet planes with which he could flee New Zealand.
Dotcom, who changed his last name to fit his outsize personality and online persona, is also banned from using the internet.
Lawyers acting for the U.S. government opposed the bail application, and claimed Dotcom has access to financial resources that make him a flight risk. However, Justice Dawson said in the North Shore District Court that as time had passed, authorities had not been able to show that Dotcom has further assets hidden, and the mere suspicion that he is very wealthy cannot be used against him.
Instead, Justice Dawson says Dotcom has “every reason to stay to be with his family and fight to keep his assets.” Justice Dawson also noted that while Dotcom has Finnish and German passports both those countries have treaties with the U.S. that would allow for prosecution should he flee to either place.
New Zealand law doesn’t have a concept of putting money up to secure release, but does allow judges to impose conditions as a condition for release from custody.
Dotcom, who as jailed on January 20, has had his bank accounts seized, as well as his cars and the entire Coatesville mansion that he lived in. Police have allowed Dotcom’s pregnant wife Mona and three children to live in the mansion, however.
The lawyers acting for the U.S. government wanted to ban Dotcom from using the Internet. Dotcom’s lawyer said the condition isn’t realistic, saying the Megaupload founder needs to contact his legal team in the U.S. to prepare his case. Justice Dawson sided with the U.S. government, and said Dotcom shouldn’t have Internet access as he has “the ability to use it for wrong purposes.”
Dotcom is wanted by the U.S. Justice Department, which accuses him and six Megaupload associates of copyright infringement to the tune of $500 million. U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite Dotcom to Virginia to face trial on criminal conspiracy charges. He was arrested with four other Megaupload associates in a dawn raid by a large SWAT-style police force supported by two helicopters in January.
The extradition hearing for Dotcom and associates from New Zealand to the U.S. isn’t expected to take place until August this year. Justice Harvey will preside over the extradition hearing and has indicated his availability for three weeks during that month. As the case is thought to set legal precedents for New Zealand, it may end up continuing beyond August with appeals to the country’s Supreme Court.
His associates, Bram van der Kolk, Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann, won bail previously. All four now await a hearing to decide if they are to be extradited to the United States.
Of the seven Megaupload accused, six have been arrested. Sven Echternach was apprehended in Germany, and Estonian Andrus Nomm was detained in the Netherlands, both last month. Only Slovakian national Julius Bencko remains at large.