Kim Dotcom, The Mastermind Behind Megaupload, Denied Bail
Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload and Megavideo, was denied bail on Wednesday, because he posed a significant flight risk, according to a New Zealand judge. If Dotcom fled to his native land of Germany, he would be safe from extradition, and could continue the life of a "hacker playboy," as Business Insider dubbed him.
If you ever wanted to watch a TV show for free, Megavideo was usually there. It was like everybody's secret, or at least the secret of one seventh of the world. Megaupload claims it's had 1 billion users (making it the 13th most frequently visited site and 4 percent of the whole Internet). But all those users probably didn't imagine that the ringmaster of this operation was of such enormous stature.
That's 6-foot-7-inches and over-300-pounds kind of stature, but also the stature of a swinging international playboy, with a collection of luxury cars, including a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe, two Cadallics, a Maserati, a Lamborghini, and 12 Mercedes-Benzes, with the license plates "HACKER," "MAFIA," "GUILTY," "CEO," "STONED," "POLICE" and "GOD." Prosecutors say Dotcom personally made $115,000 a day in 2010 -- almost twice as much as Mitt Romney.
He lived in a $30 million, sprawling New Zealand mansion complete with a maze and its own safe room -- behind a series of electronic locks that the FBI had to cut through in order to get to the man the entertainment industry had not-so-affectionately dubbed "Dr. Evil."
But Megaupload certainly didn't hide from the limelight. Its CEO is listed as Swizz Beatz, the rapper, famed hip hop producer, and husband of Alicia Keys, who managed to recruit Sean "Diddy" Combs, Kanye West, Will.i.am, Mary J. Blige, Kim Kardashian, Lil Jon and Macy Gray to star in a catchy promo for the site last December, which didn't sit so well with some of their labels.
But Dotcom himself has been something of a mystery since 2002, according to The New York Times. In the '90s he regularly brushed with the law. He says that he served three months in a Munich jail in 1994 for hacking into a Pentagon computer to check out real-time satellite images of Saddam Hussein's palaces.
In 1998, he was convicted of trading stolen credit card numbers, and was given a suspended two-year sentence. Three years later, he bought a floundering startup, announced that he would invest a bunch of his own money it, and then sold the company for $1 million in profit after the shares leaped up, in what was then considered the largest insider-trading case in German history. He received a suspended sentence.
In 2010, the same year Dotcom made Dotcom his official surname, he sent his New Zealand neighbors an email, obtained by The Guardian, in which he assures them that he and his wife and two sons "come in peace." He also listed some jokey benefits to living next to a convicted felon, like "My close personal relations with other (far worse) criminals can help you whenever you have to deal with a nasty neighbor."
Dotcom won't be there neighbor again in the near future. He'll be in the custody of New Zealand authorities until his February 22 hearing for a U.S. extradition.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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