HE GOES by three names, owns a helicopter, and a fleet of luxury cars including a pink Cadillac, keeps sawn-off shotguns and rents one of New Zealand’s most expensive estates.
But yesterday the German-born founder of online file-sharing service Megaupload was behind bars and his multimillion-dollar website disabled after the FBI swooped on it over alleged breaches of copyright.
The arrest of Kim Dotcom, formerly Kimble ‘‘Kim’’ Schmitz, who has also used the alias Kim Tim Jim Vestor, sparked a global internet war between hacking group Anonymous and the US government as well as record companies.
Yesterday, Anonymous pulled down music company Universal’s website after targeting the FBI and US Justice Department websites, as well as scores of record labels, in retaliation for the shutdown of Megaupload.
Other internet activists showed their support of Mr Dotcom through a Facebook page set up "Free Kim DotCom" while thousands took to Twitter to express their outrage.
The FBI wants to extradite MrDotcom over allegedly costing record labels up to $500 million in copyright infringements, in one of the biggest such cases in US history.
Mr Dotcom and six others, including three others arrested in New Zealand – Finn Batato, 38, and Mathias Ortmann, 40, both from Germany, and Dutch national Bram van der Kolk, 29 – face five charges laid in an indictment by a US grand jury in the state of Virginia.
They include racketeering and money laundering, and allege that cash was poured into New Zealand funds and banks by members of the so-called "Mega Conspiracy".
On Friday, Auckland police had to cut their way into a safe room within the rented Coatesville mansion where Mr Dotcom had barricaded himself in with a rifle.
They seized a haul of luxury goods including artwork and at least eight cars with personalised vanity number plates, including "God", "evil", "hacker", "stoned", "mafia" and, ironically, "police" and "guilty".
When a neighbour of Mr Dotcom heard a helicopter hovering on Friday morning, she told The New Zealand Herald she thought it must have been his private helicopter.
"I thought he was going out for breakfast, as he sometimes does,’’ she said, without giving her name.
The 38-year-old has been renting the NZ $30million ($23.1million) mansion owned by the founders of Chrisco Christmas Hampers, Richard and Ruth Bradley. He has resident status in New Zealand and Hong Kong, where the company is based and dual citizenship of Finland and Germany.
Mr Dotcom is no stranger to fame or notoriety. His Megaupload website has attracted the support of celebrities such as Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and Alicia Keys.
The company has denied previous reports that Keys’s husband, Swizz Beatz, is the boss of Megaupload.
In 2002 Mr Dotcom was arrested in Germany and given a two-year probationary sentence for embezzlement, in what was then the largest insider-trading case in German history. He was also arrested twice in 1994, again in Germany, for computer fraud.
In court with three co-accused in Auckland’s North Shore District Court on Friday, Mr Dotcom welcomed media attention, saying he had nothing to hide and reportedly smiled and winked at a woman in the public gallery. Nonetheless, the company hired celebrity lawyer Bob Bennett, the man who defended Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, to represent Megaupload on Thursday after the website was taken down.
‘‘The company is looking at its legal options for getting back its servers and its domain and getting its servers back up online,’’ Megaupload’s legal spokesman Ira Rothken said. ‘‘Megaupload will vigorously defend itself.’’
Megaupload, a so-called locker service, allows users to transfer large files like movies and music anonymously over the internet, and media companies have long complained that some files are being transferred in violation of copyright law. The company argues it simply offers online storage.