Bailed Dotcom headed home

Last updated 13:57 22/02/2012
Lyle McMahon

Kim Dotcom talks to media outside North Shore District Court after being released on electronic bail.

Dotcom's lawyer reacts to bail decision

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Alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom says he just wants to go home, after being granted bail today.

The move came after it emerged it was highly unlikely he had access to money that could help him flee New Zealand. The Crown was considering appealing the decision.

Dotcom took an hour to appear after signing his bail papers.

"I'm relieved to go home and see my family, my three little kids and my pregnant wife," he said.

Dotcom said he hoped the media understood that is all he wanted to say right now.

"I just want to go home."

He was whisked away by his security staff to an awaiting Toyota.

Judge Nevin Dawson said at the North Shore District Court that officials had investigated Dotcom's potential access to funds and "none of significance" had been found.

Judge Dawson said it was "highly unlikely" that he had other financial resources available to him that had not already been seized.

Prosecution acting for the United States Government had said that because Dotcom was "very wealthy" it was probable he had more bank accounts.

However, Judge Dawson said this put Dotcom in the position of having to "prove a negative" and that assertion was not enough to imply his flight risk.

Four new bank accounts had been discovered in the Philippines but they were empty, he said.

It had also arisen that Finland and Germany, where Dotcom has citizenship, do have treaties with the United States which would allow him to be prosecuted there if he did skip the country.

The chief financial officer of Megaupload submitted evidence from Hong Kong saying that Dotcom was "highly disorganised" when it came to financial matters, which accounted dozens of expired credit cards found when police raided his Coatesville mansion.

However, Judge Dawson said the most significant change since Dotcom was first arrested was the passing of time. The first bail hearing took place soon after a dramatic arrest at his Coatesville mansion north of Auckland and a large amount of uncertainty surrounded Dotcom's capacity to flee.

Since then it was revealed that he did not have the resources to get out of the country and no new bank accounts had been discovered.

"The suspicion that Mr Dotcom is very wealthy is not evidence of further assets and cannot be used against him."

Judge Dawson granted bail to his Coatesville house with the conditions that he did not have access the internet, no helicopter be allowed to travel to the property, that he would not travel more than 80km from the property and that he give police 24 hours notice of any appointment that required him to leave the property, except for medical emergencies.

Dotcom's lawyer Paul Davison QC said his client was relieved to be getting out of prison to spend time with his family.

Dotcom had "survived" prison, Davison said.

"It hasn't been comfortable but he has managed to cope with it."

Davison said the United States' case against Dotcom had no validity to it.

"[It] doesn't have any substantial basis to it at all."

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He could not say whether the case would be concluded this year.

In court, Davison said the condition that his client had no access to internet was unrealistic.

It was an international case where Dotcom needed to be in contact with lawyers in the United States to prepare his case.

"It's like saying he shouldn't  have access to a telephone, it's such a fundamental means of communication."

However, prosecutor Anne Toohey said there was a very high risk of reoffending.

Megaupload was an enormously popular website and she feared that if it could be set up in a different jurisdiction outside the powers of the United States, then that country would not have the ability to shut it down.

Dotcom, 38, founded file-sharing site Megaupload and stands accused of breaching copyright laws costing owners more than US$500 million in what US authorities call the "Mega Conspiracy".

He was arrested last month during a raid at the $30m Coatesville mansion he rented, and was previously denied bail while awaiting an extradition hearing because he was considered a flight risk.

Dotcom denies any wrongdoing and says he has no intention of leaving New Zealand.  

The other three accused - Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato - had previously been bailed.

The extradition hearing to deal with sending four alleged co conspirators to the United States to stand trial will not be heard until August.

Judge David Harvey said the earliest he would be available for a three week stretch that the hearing was expected to take was August 20.

Dotcom's lawyer Paul Davison said consequences of extended custodial remand is no longer a pressing issue because of his bail.

A teleconference would be held on March 15 to see where both sides were with the case.

- Stuff

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