Billionaire Kim Dotcom was convicted on eight business charges in a Hong Kong court just a month after being granted conditional residency in New Zealand, it has been revealed.
Dotcom, 38, was granted New Zealand residency in November 2010 despite a string of foreign convictions and being considered persona non grata in Thailand.
He applied under the Investor Plus category after investing $10 million in government bonds, and was given a special direction which allowed him to gain residency despite not meeting the good character requirements.
The founder of the Megaupload file-sharing site is out on bail awaiting an extradition hearing in August.
He and co-accused Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato are wanted in the United States on charges of internet piracy, copyright infringement and wire fraud.
Documents released last night under the Official Information Act show that in addition to convictions in Germany for insider trading and computer hacking, Dotcom was summoned to appear in the Hong Kong court in relation to the purchase of shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in December 2010.
The offences involved a technical breach of regulations, were "relatively minor", and resulted in conviction on eight charges and a fine of HK$8000 (NZ$1250).
"Mr Dotcom is anxious to know how this may affect his New Zealand residence status," the documents show.
In addition to those convictions and "some minor infractions of traffic law before 2003", the Immigration Department investigated suggestions Dotcom had been deported from Thailand. Thai authorities were unable to confirm that but said he was "persona non grata" in their country.
Dotcom's German convictions were wiped under that country's clean slate legislation and he provided clean police checks from Hong Kong and Finland.
Former immigration minister Aussie Malcolm's company acted as an agent for Dotcom and described him as a "billionaire with a lot to offer New Zealand in terms of job creation and investment". It was also suggested that he would be able to bring other wealthy people to New Zealand through his contacts.
His law firm, Simpson Grierson, said Dotcom had also shown a commitment to philanthropic activity.
"The substantial economic benefits that Mr Dotcom would provide to New Zealand ... were weighed up against the applicant's convictions and the negative publicity that surrounds him," a memorandum to Immigration Minister Nathan Guy said.
It said careful consideration was given to the negative information about Dotcom but there was no credible evidence to substantiate the rumours.
"It was considered that the factors in favour of the special direction outweighed those against by a considerable margin."
Former immigration minister Jonathan Coleman was informed of Dotcom's application in 2010 and "sensitive issue updates" were sent among staff at the department.
Immigration New Zealand general manager of visa services Nicola Hogg said a review by the department's in-house lawyers found decisions in Dotcom's case were lawfully made.
"It was clear from the file that the immigration officer who made the decision did so using proper lines of the escalation," she said.
The review was not made public. Nine other applications have been made under the investor category but none of them have declared criminal convictions.
Kim Dotcom's bodyguard pleaded not guilty to two firearms charges and opted for a jury trial when he appeared in North Shore District Court yesterday. A trial date of March 30 was set down and he was remanded on bail.
LIFE AND TIMES
Kim Dotcom was granted residency to New Zealand in November 2010. Before that he held a multiple entry visa in March 2010 and had visited three times before that since December 2008.
Born 1974 in Kiel, Germany. Citizen of Finland.
His convictions include:
Computer hacking in 1994 in Germany for which he received a two-year suspended sentence and was treated as a juvenile.
Insider trading and breach of trust in 2003 in Germany for which he received a one year and eight month suspended sentence and paid a 100,000 fine. (He now has a clean German police record because of the clean slate legislation.)
Minor traffic infringements before 2003.
Eight charges relating to the purchase of shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2010. He was fined HK$8000.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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