WELLINGTON Aug 29 A New Zealand court on
Wednesday granted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom access to an
additional NZ$6 million ($4.84 million) to pay legal fees and
living costs, loosening restrictions placed on the Internet
tycoon under investigation by U.S. authorities for online piracy
The funds will be secured against a NZ$10 million government
bond. The court also allowed Dotcom to sell part of his stable
of luxury cars confiscated when New Zealand authorities raided
his home in January at the request of the U.S. government.
Dotcom, a 38-year-old German national also known as Kim
Schmitz, was arrested during the raid. Most of his assets have
been frozen as U.S. authorities claim the eccentric
entrepreneur's fortune has been gained through illegal activity.
The New Zealand high court last month ruled that the raid
and evidence seizure were illegal.
Dotcom is fighting extradition to the United States, where
he is accused of leading a group that netted $175 million since
2005 by copying and distributing music, films and other
copyrighted content online without authorisation. His movements
are restricted pending an extradition trial next March.
"The plan of the U.S. government and New Zealand prosecutors
to keep us locked up and from access to a proper legal defence
has failed," Dotcom said in an email to Reuters.
"We have a competent legal team that can now operate at full
capacity to defend us."
Dotcom maintains that the Megaupload site was simply an
online storage facility, and has accused Hollywood of lobbying
the U.S. government to vilify him.
Wednesday's decision enables Dotcom to pay legal fees, which
have totalled around NZ$2.6 million so far and are expected to
snowball through his trial. The court had earlier allowed Dotcom
access to NZ$750,000.
The proceeds will cover living costs for Dotcom's family of
seven, including NZ$1 million in annual rent for their estate
outside Auckland, valued at around NZ$30 million.
Dotcom owns a fleet of 15 cars, including a 1959 pink
Cadillac, a 2008 Rolls Royce Coupe and a souped-up Mercedes
E500. Funds from the sale of vehicles will be withheld from him
pending a court decision on how they may be used.
($1 = 1.2405 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Ron Popeski)