MegaUpload Defendants Seek Bail

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Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is considered a significant flight risk, New Zealand prosecutors argued on behalf of the U.S. government Monday in a New Zealand court.

The North Shore District Court scheduled a hearing to decide whether Dotcom and three others should be granted bail after four men were arrested in Auckland on Friday on suspicion of large-scale copyright infringement.

Crown prosecutor Anne Toohey said that Dotcom was a risk because of his numerous aliases -- his name varies on his travel documents -- as well as his access to funds, and because he allegedly evaded arrest by hiding in a safe room in his mansion.

"Dotcom poses a flight risk at the extreme end of the scale," Toohey said.

Dotcom, along with chief marketing officer Finn Batato; Mathias Ortmann, chief technical officer; and Bram van der Kolk, programmer; were arrested on Friday by New Zealand Police who executed provisional arrest warrants requested by the United States Department of Justice.

All four defendants were expected to apply for bail pending an extradition hearing. Lawyers representing the U.S. government oppose bail for all four defendants.

Just a Misunderstanding, Lawyer Says

Dotcom's lawyer Paul Davison said Dotcom, who was very security conscious, had not been trying to evade arrest by hiding in his panic room, as he had not known the people pounding on his bedroom door were police.

From left, Mathias Ortmann, Fin Batato, Bram Van der Kolk, and Kim Dotcom in court. Source: IDG News Service

Once he realized they were police, "he was frightened so he stayed there", Davison said.

An unmodified pistol-grip shotgun was present in the panic room, which was illegal as no one in the house had the appropriate firearms license. It was loaded with a rubber bullet and there was "absolutely no suggestion" that Dotcom was going to use it, Davison said.

Crown lawyer Toohey said that Dotcom was a flight risk because he had once fled from charges in Germany.

However, Davison said Dotcom had been unaware of charges against him on leaving Germany, and had returned on hearing of them.

Toohey said he also posed a risk of reoffending as there was financial incentive to do so, and because there are numerous domains registered by Megaupload that could be used.

However, Davison argued that Dotcom had no intentions of restarting Megaupload.

"He has no interest in reinstating the business until this is sorted," Davison said.

Davison said Dotcom and Megaupload had spent millions of dollars on legal advice to ensure the company was operating within the law.

181 copyright holders were capable of directly removing content from Megaupload, he said.

Users were also required to agree to a Terms of Service agreement barring them from uploading copyrighted material.

Police Visited Dotcom's Home Before Raid

On January 19, one day before the police raided Dotcom's home, a police officer visited the multimillion-dollar mansion to learn about the property. Security-conscious Dotcom wanted the police to understand how to get around the property if he alerted the police to a threat, Davison said.

The police officer hid a camera inside a pen, he said, and captured images from inside the home.

Davison alleges the police knew that Dotcom had four children and another on the way when his home was raided by 76 police officers.

"The police officer on the 19th was told [Dotcom's] wife was pregnant and due to give birth," Davison said.

The Extradition Process

Whether or not Dotcom is granted bail, he faces extradition to the US. The US government has 45 days from his arrest on Friday to submit an application for extradition.

The Judge presiding over the court today, Judge David McNaughton, said that if extradition proceedings were to take place in the North Shore District Court, the case could take months to be heard.

If bail is not granted today or the case is not moved to another court, Dotcom could spend months behind bars in New Zealand while waiting for the hearing.

This story, "MegaUpload Defendants Seek Bail" was originally published by Computerworld New Zealand.

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