24 Jan 2012

Judge reserves decision on bail in internet piracy case

5:19 am on 24 January 2012

The judge hearing a bail application for the German millionaire Kim Dotcom has reserved his decision.

Mr Dotcom, 37, and three other men are accused of money laundering, racketeering and copyright piracy in relation to their international file-sharing website Megaupload and the FBI wants them extradited to the United States.

An application by the four for bail was heard in the North Shore District Court on Monday.

Judge David McNaughton says the information submitted from prosecution and defence lawyers is so detailed and serious he needs time to consider his decision, which he will deliver by Wednesday morning at the latest.

He has remanded Mr Dotcom and his co-accused in custody until then.

During Monday's bail hearing, Crown laywer Anne Toohey - representing the United States - argued that Mr Dotcom poses an extreme flight risk and may reoffend if he is allowed bail and asked the judge to turn down the request.

The court was told Mr Dotcom is a flight risk because he still has access to a large amount of money which could be used to charter private planes, boats or helicopters to leave the country.

Ms Toohey also told the court he should be kept in custody as he poses a firearms risk.

She said when police apprehended Mr Dotcom in a raid on his Coatesville home on Friday the firearm was about four metres behind him, in an open gun safe with the keys in the lock.

She says a firearms expert has told the Crown he has never before seen a shotgun sawn so short in New Zealand.

But the lawyer representing the German millionaire told the court the authorities have elevated his client's offending well beyond any reality.

Paul Davison QC dismissed claims by the Crown his client poses an extreme risk of fleeing the country and of reoffending on bail.

He said his client, who has New Zealand residency, wants to stay in this country as his wife and children are here.

Mr Davidson says his client emphatically denies any wrongdoing and claims the authorities totally misunderstand what the Megauploads site is.

The courtroom was packed with supporters of the accused and a large international media contingent for the hearing.

More arrests in Europe

Ms Toohey told the court two other men sought in connection with the case have been arrested in Europe.

The US authorities had issued international warrants for a German citizen, Sven Echternach and Julius Bencko  of Slovakia for their involvement with Megaupload.

Ms Toohey said Mr Echternach had travelled to Germany from the Philippines but cannot be extradited because German law does not permit extradition of its own citizens.

The US Dept of Justice says a another man, Andrus Nomm, was arrested in the Netherlands on Saturday.

In another development, FileSonic - a website providing online data storage - has disabled its file sharing services in the wake of the Megaupload case.

FileSonic said in a statement on its website it would only allow users to access their own files.