Secrecy over Dotcom's residency application

KATE CHAPMAN AND DANYA LEVY
Last updated 08:09 09/03/2012
kim dotcom and wife
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
'BILLIONAIRE WITH A LOT TO OFFER': Kim Dotcom after an appearance at the Auckland High Court, pictured with his wife Mona Schmitz.

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Immigration officials were concerned billionaire Kim Dotcom's residence application would attract "buying residence" criticism and tried to keep it a secret, new papers show.

The 38-year-old German-born Finnish national was granted New Zealand residency in November 2010 despite a string of foreign convictions and being considered persona non grata in Thailand, after immigration officials used a "special direction" to waive good character requirements.

The founder of the Megaupload file-sharing site - who is on bail awaiting an extradition hearing in August - gained residency under the Investor Plus category after investing $10 million in government bonds.

Immigration New Zealand last night released hundreds of documents about Dotcom's application requested by Fairfax Media under the Official Information Act.

The papers show concern about Dotcom "buying residence" was flagged by officials.

"We are requesting that this application be kept as confidential as possible to avoid further media speculation or attention."

Officials noted that Dotcom was of interest to the media but was "actively seeking to avoid such attention".

And they were so concerned about bad press, Immigration's communications team developed a strategy to deal with the media.

It involved stressing that full consideration had been given to his declared convictions and that his potential as an investor outweighed the risk those convictions posed.

Good character requirements were waived because Dotcom invested $10 million; was a high net worth individual; his conviction was more than 16 years earlier and didn't involve harming anyone; wanted to buy New Zealand's most expensive home which no one else wanted; and would contribute to New Zealand through investment, consumption and philanthropic activities.

Dotcom gave $50,000 to the Christchurch mayoral fund following the earthquake, another $50,000 to a rugby player who was left in a wheelchair after an on-field injury and forked out $600,000 for a fireworks display in Auckland harbour.

In May 2010 Dotcom deferred his application because of media interest in his presence and investments in New Zealand but his immigration agent told officials he remained committed to gaining residence and his actions were helping the county.

"I am told he has spent around $1 million in GST, indirectly created 18 jobs for New Zealanders, benefitted local businesses who are servicing and supporting his visit."

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In December 2008 Dotcom visited New Zealand for 10 days and again for two months in August 2009, arriving on a private jet and failing to declare his criminal convictions.

While in New Zealand in 2009 he bought 12 cars valued at $3.2 million and leased a helicopter on a stand-by basis.

The papers also show Dotcom was convicted on eight business charges in Hong Kong in December 2010 just a month after being granted conditional residency in New Zealand.

The "relatively minor" charges related to the purchase of shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and resulted in a HK$8000 (NZ$1250) fine, but added to his German convictions for insider trading and computer hacking.

Dotcom 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.

- Fairfax Media

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