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.