2012/02/22

Megaupload boss 'relieved' to get bail in N.Zealand

AUCKLAND, February 22, 2012 (AFP) - Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom said Wednesday he was relieved to be granted bail in New Zealand after spending a month behind bars amid fears he would flee the country to escape US online piracy charges.

"I'm relieved to go home and see my family, my three little kids and my pregnant wife," he told reporters in Auckland after a judge overturned two previous rulings that the Internet millionaire was an "extreme flight risk".

The bail decision is a setback for US authorities, who are seeking to extradite Dotcom and three others arrested when New Zealand police cooperating with a major US probe raided his Auckland mansion on January 20.

Two previous bail hearings had accepted the prosecution case that the Internet millionaire was an "extreme flight risk" because he had the wealth and possible criminal connections to slip out of the country if he wanted.

But judge Nevin Dawson said the danger of Dotcom fleeing had diminished because all his funds had been seized and investigators had not uncovered any new bank accounts or assets in his name since his arrest.

"It would seem that he has every reason to stay to be with his family and to fight to keep his significant assets," Dawson said.

Dotcom, who allegedly earned $42 million from his Internet business in 2010 alone, declined to comment on his case, aside from saying his treatment by New Zealand police "resembled an audition for American Idol."

The US Justice Department and FBI allege Megaupload and related sites netted more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners over $500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.

Megaupload was founded in 2005 but shut down last month when its assets were frozen as part of the US probe.