Megaupload's Dotcom, facing legal threat, launches political party

Megaupload's Dotcom, facing legal threat, launches political party

AUCKLAND - Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom holds court while bathing in the pool of a sprawling New Zealand mansion, fist bumping and chatting with some of the 700 guests gathered to celebrate the political party he launched last month to promote Internet freedom.

His latest ultra-encrypted file storage site, Mega, will soon go public after a deal that values it at NZ$210 million ($180 million), and Baboom, an online streaming music service designed to bypass record companies, is nearing its hard launch.

In Dotcom's alternate universe, he is fighting extradition from his adopted country to the United States, where the hulking 40-year-old stands accused of massive copyright infringement related to the Megaupload file sharing site he founded in 2005.

Last week, Hollywood studios filed their own lawsuit against Megaupload and Dotcom, and a few days later four major music labels followed their lead, cranking up pressure on the father-of-five who faces an extradition hearing in July.

The parallel lives of the man born Kim Schmitz in West Germany collided dramatically in January, 2012, when his $20 million rented country estate outside Auckland was raided by dozens of New Zealand police in a dawn swoop carried out at the request of the FBI.

Dotcom was cut out of a safe room in the mansion and locked up, and millions of dollars of assets in property, cash, luxury cars and art were seized. He has been released on bail with access to some funds, while his movements are restricted.

His anger over the injustice he says he faced during and after the dramatic raid, which was swiftly followed by the closure of Megaupload, prompted him to set up a political organisation called the Internet Party.

"The raid on my family with two helicopters and 72 cops with machine guns, the illegal spying against my family, the unlawful restraining orders - I felt it was a gross abuse of power," he told Reuters, seated in a living room dotted with stained glass windows inlaid with "M" for Mega.

"When you're in an environment like that ... you feel like you want to do something about this injustice."


The launch of the Internet Party, whose policy platform will be crowd sourced and whose leader will be selected in a process reminiscent of an audition for TV talent show "The X Factor", comes ahead of general elections in September.

Some political commentators have dismissed the party as Dotcom's latest vanity project to goad New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, whom he forced into an apology for illegal surveillance by a government spy agency.

But a proposed tie-up with another fringe party could see it influencing the parliamentary balance of power in New Zealand's German-style proportional voting system.

Dotcom cannot contest a seat, because he is not a New Zealand citizen, and his political career could be cut short if the US Department of Justice succeeds in extraditing him at a July hearing that follows numerous delays.

That would rob New Zealand of one of its most colorful characters.

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