Kim Dotcom and Megaupload: a timelineby Toby Manhire
A summary of the twists and turns in the extraordinary story of Kim Dotcom since his dramatic arrest at the start of 2012.
Indictments are filed in the US against Kim Dotcom and six Megaupload associates citing alleged criminal copyright infringements, racketeering and money laundering related to the cyberlocker site.
Kim Dotcom is arrested at his mansion in Coatesville, north of Auckland, in the most dramatic of a series of police raids involving more than 70 New Zealand officers, in cooperation with the FBI. The Megaupload site is disabled by the US Department of Justice, who declare a “mega conspiracy”. Millions of dollars of assets are seized in subsequent days.
Dotcom is held at the Auckland Central Remand Prison. “Every two hours, they would wake me up,” he would later say. “I was deprived of sleep. I wrote a complaint. I said, ‘This is torture, this is sleep deprivation.’”
In the North Shore District Court, Justice David McNaughton rules that Dotcom is a flight risk, and denies bail. "With sufficient determination and financial resources, flight risk remains a real and significant possibility, which I cannot discount, and bail is declined," he says.
The High Court refuses an appeal against the District Court decision to deny Dotcom bail. Justice Asher says he backs the earlier decision, and does not see sufficient ties to New Zealand to persuade him that Dotcom is not a flight risk. He stays in the slammer.
Dotcom is granted bail by the North Shore District Court, with conditions including the wearing of an electronic bracelet for monitoring, keeping within a 50 mile radius of his home and staying away from helicopters. Other requirements include living in the smaller house beside the main Chrisco mansion, and a ban on use of the internet.
Justice Nevin Dawson says Dotcom has “every reason to stay to be with his family and fight to keep his assets” but that he isn’t to get on the internet because he has "the ability to use it for wrong purposes”.
In his first major TV interview since his arrest, Dotcom tells the Campbell Live programme that he is no "piracy king", saying the US attempt to extradite him are built on "fabrications and lies". He adds: "It's kind of like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, you know? If you want to go after someone and you have a political goal you will say whatever it takes."
The High Court grants Kim Dotcom an increased monthly living allowance (drawn from his frozen funds) to NZ $60,000. He also has a 2011 Mercedes returned.
Dotcom’s bail conditions are relaxed to allow him to spend time in a recording studio making an album, to access the internet and to use his swimming pool, following a hearing before Justice David Harvey in the North Shore District Court.
The story spawns a political scandal subplot, centring on anonymous donations made by Dotcom to rightwing MP John Banks during an earlier campaign for the Auckland mayoralty. Banks makes it crystal clear that he not travelled on a river in a cabbage boat.
Dotcom releases "The John Banks Song", lampooning the ACT MP.
Dotcom’s lawyers claim that digital material has been cloned by the FBI and taken to the US in contravention of an undertaking by prosecutors. Paul Davison QC tells the Auckland High Court the process was "off the rails'' and his client's rights had been "subverted''.
Dotcom is permitted to remove his electronic tag and move back into the main Chrisco mansion after district court judge David Harvey rules that there is no serious flight risk. Dotcom has abided by all the requirement of his bail to date, says the judge.
The court also makes an important ruling on disclosure, ordering that Dotcom's legal team should have access to information gathered by the FBI in the copyright case against him.
Dotcom’s lawyer’s ask US courts to throw out charges against Megaupload, saying that the US government has no jurisdiction over the Hong Kong-based cloud-storage service.
The US Attorney's office says the Megaupload request to dismiss charges is “premature” and should be denied.
The NZ High Court grants an urgent judicial review of an earlier ruling that Dotcom’s legal team should have access to files held by the FBI, but orders US lawyers to begin copying the data from seized computers immediately.
Dotcom uses his newly created Twitter account to announce that his music-streaming project Megabox will go ahead.
In the High Court, Justice Helen Winkelmann rules that the raid on the Dotcom Mansion (see January 20) was illegal, and based on invalid search warrants. She additionally finds that it was unlawful for clones of digital material seized to be sent to the FBI.
A federal court in Virginia grants a request to hear a motion to dismiss the case against Dotcom and his co-accused colleagues. The hearing is expected on July 27. A request to unfreeze funds to pay Megaupload lawyers’ fees is deferred by the judge, who says he will reconsider if the motion to dismiss fails.
Dotcom's lawyers advise that the extradition hearing, scheduled for August 6, has been put back until March next year, owing to the number of unresolved matters before the courts. "Dirty delay tactics by the US," claims Dotcom on Twitter. "They destroyed my business. Took all my assets. Time does the rest."
Put March 25 in your diary. But use a pencil.
District Court Judge David Harvey, an internet expert, stands down from the Kim Dotcom case following controversy over a remark he made at a Nethui conference session on trade and copyright in which he said "the enemy is U.S." (It was intended as a jolly pun - rather than "us".)
He will be replaced by Judge Nevin Dawson.
The heavily trailed Mr President song and video is released by Kim Dotcom, challenging Barack Obama over internet freedom.
The New Zealand police announce that they will not be laying charges against MP John Banks over three anonymous donations - one from Kim Dotcom – made during an earlier mayoral campaign.
Dramatic footage of the raid on the Coatesville mansion is played in the High Court in Auckland in the first of three days of hearings in relation to a judicial review over disclosure of evidence.
The Auckland High Court dismisses an attempt to overturn an earlier District Court ruling that the FBI must allow Kim Dotcom and his team to see evidence being used against them in his extradition case. (Judgment in PDF here.)
In a separate strand of the court drama, Dotcom appears in court to request funds be unlocked by to allow him to pay legal and living costs. His legal bill to date is estimated at $2.7m, says his lawyer.
Dotcom is granted a fresh release of $6 million in previously frozen funds by the Auckland High Court. The money, to be drawn from a $10 million government bond, includes $2.6 million to cover current NZ legal fees, $1 million in future costs and $1 million in rent.
Dotcom comes under attack for "rape joke" tweets.
Police release evidence given by Dotcom in relation to their inquiry into John Banks's mayoral donations (see April 27, June 26). According to Dotcom, Banks told him: "I want to help you, Kim, and I can help you more effectively if no one knows about this donation."
Kim Dotcom, in Wellington ahead of a Court of Appeal hearing, pops into the public gallery at parliament, to watch prime minister John Key bat away questions from opposition MPs over the John Banks mayoral donations saga (see September 13). Dotcom tells reporters that Key has privileged political expediency over ethics, but that it is now time to "move on".
A crown appeal against an earlier High Court decision on evidence disclosure (see August 16) begins at the Court of Appeal in Wellington.
NZ PM John Key orders an inquiry into "the circumstances of unlawful interception of communications of certain individuals by the Government Communications Security Bureau" in relation to the Megaupload case.
John Key apologises to Kim Dotcom following the release of the Neazor report on the illegal interception of communications (see Sept 24). The report confirms that the agency had illegally conducted surveillance on Dotcom and his colleague Bram Van Der Kolk, both New Zealand residents.
A US court rejects Megaupload’s request to dismiss criminal proceedings on the grounds that the US government failed to serve the company, given it has no US address (see June 29). Kim Dotcom retorts: "US judgement scary for non-US companies: By not establishing a US office you 'purposefully' chose to evade US jurisdiction?"
Reports suggest police have launched an investigation into the Government Communications Security Bureau's illegal spying on Dotcom (see September 24), following a complaint from the Green Party.
It is confirmed that the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service found in its investigation into Kim Dotcom that he posed no security risk.
The "splash page" for the new Mega site is launched at Me.ga - a rush of demand overloads the servers, prompting Dotcom to tweet: "All FBI agents pressing reload hahaha..... We see their IP addresses. LOL!!!"
He plans to launch the site proper on January 20, 2012, the first anniversary of his arrest.
Dotcom announces that he intends to breathe fresh life into plans to provide a second major undersea internet cable linking the US and New Zealand. The project, which would come with bargain broadband for New Zealanders, would be funded by suing the US.
With Gabon having denied the relaunched Mega website its domain suffix (.GA), Kim Dotcom reveals that the new site will instead be Mega.co.nz. There appears to be no truth to imaginings that Dotcom had come close to changing his name to Kim Dotga, nor that he would now become Kim Dotcodotenzed.
Dotcom's legal team makes a fresh attempt to have the case thrown out, accusing the FBI of a "double-cross", They argue that they had left evidential material on the site at the instruction, via their server operator, of the FBI, only for the FBI to point the finger at them for failing to remove it.
In another victory for Dotcom's team at the High Court, Justice Winkelmann clears the way for a damages claim against the police and the Government Communications Security Bureau in relation to the unlawful search warrant used in the mansion raid. The GCSB is ordered to reveal secret details about "all entities" with which it shared information, including "members of Echelon/Five Eyes, including any United States authority". The Echelon network is an intelligence alliance between NZ, the US, Australia, Canada and the UK.
The extradition hearing is delayed again - this time to August 2013.
A Canadian court refuses a request to send copies of servers hosting Megaupload data to US prosecutors, saying the demand is overly broad.
The FBI respond to the claims of "entrapment", calling them "baseless" (see Nov 24 2012).
Broadcaster Mediaworks cancels an extensive radio campaign promoting Mega, apparently after pressure from record companies.
Kim Dotcom and his colleagues launch their new "Mega" site with a lavish party at the Coatesville mansion. Exactly a year after the raid at the same spot, actors stage a repeat invasion, complete with a helicopter emblazoned with "FBI" flying above. Dotcom boasts that the volume of registration in the first hours of the new site sets a new record for startups.
Kim Dotcom spends a bizarre day chez Sir Paul Holmes.
Vikram Kumar, former head of InternetNZ, joins Mega as CEO.
Dotcom and his team suffer a significant setback in the New Zealand Court of Appeal, which overturns an earlier decision of the District Court (see May 29), upheld by the High Court (see August 16, 2012) that the US must provide extensive disclosure of documents ahead of an extradition hearing.
In a summary issued with the full judgement (here, PDF), the court says:
Under the Extradition Act 1999 the United States must, among other things, satisfy the District Court that there is a prima facie case against Mr Dotcom and his associates – that they have a case to answer. The United States is entitled to do this by summarising the evidence against Mr Dotcom in what is called the record of the case. The question for the Court was whether the record of the case procedure contemplated disclosure on the basis ordered by the District Court. The Court decided that it did not.
The Court of Appeal rules (PDF) that Dotcom can sue the Government Communications Security Bureau alongside New Zealand Police, upholding the High Court decision (see December 6, 2012) . The court ruled in favour of the crown, however, in overturning the earlier instruction that the GCSB to hand over all of its spying evidence against Dotcom and his his associate Bram van der Kolk. Only information relevant to the case needed to be provided, it said.
Documents released under the Official Information Act relating to the illegal spying on New Zealand residents Kim Dotcom and Bram can der Kolk show, in the words of TV3 political editor Patrick Gower, "the police and spies are donkey-deep in bureaucratic butt-covering of the highest order". They also reveal that Dotcom had been given the code name "Billy Big Steps".
The revelation that as many as 88 individuals have been unlawfully spied on is among details of the Kitteridge report (PDF) into the capability, governance and performance of the Government Communications Security Bureau - prompted by revelations of illegal spying of Kim Dotcom - published by the government and the GCSB earlier than intended after details are leaked to and published by Fairfax.
For more detailed timelines plotting the connection between the GCSB ructions and the spying on Dotcom see here, here and here.
The Dotcom legal team returns to the High Court in Auckland, agreeing to postpone an attempt to sue the police for the illegal raid, separating that claim from their request for evidence seized during the raid to be returned.
A "white paper" is published, detailing evidence that Dotcom's legal team argue are shows "the crimes he's accused of do not exist under US law and that the prosecution was carried out at the behest of special interest groups close to the Democratic Party".
The release is timed to coincide with a visit to New Zealand by the US attorney-general, Eric Holder, who is attending a meeting of the Quintet of Attorneys General.
The documents can be viewed here.
The High Court, which earlier ruled that search warrants for the raid of the Dotcom mansion in January of last year were invalid (see June 28 2012) orders the NZ Police to return to Dotcom and his co-accused all items seized in the raid that are not relevant to a future trial, as well as clones of all other digital information, including that which has been sent to the US.
Revelations about the extensive, secret Prism data collection system in the US lead Dotcom to suggest that it was used in the GCSB's illegal surveillance of his communications.
The extradition hearing is postponed for a fourth time, to April 2014. Provision is made for an earlier trial in November 2013 should disclosure appeals be resolved more quickly, but that seems unlikely.
Kim Dotcom squares up to NZ prime minister John Key at the NZ Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee, which is hearing submissions on the GCSB amendment bill that would change and expand the powers of the agency.
The dispute over disclosure of evidence (see Marh 1) reaches the New Zealand Supreme Court. Oral argument is expected to take just one day.
This Herald piece offers a useful account of the huge legal costs being amassed, and a breakdown of the different court battles under way.
The NZ Police announce that while Kim Dotcom and Bram van der Kolk were illegally spied on, GCSB staff did not act with criminal intent, and so no charges will be laid against the agency following the request from the Greens (see October 29 2012)
Extradition hearing scheduled to begin.
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