A jet-setting German businessman with a chequered past of computer hacking and insider trading is laying on a spectacular New Year's fireworks display for Aucklanders.
Kim Schmitz, who calls himself Kim Dotcom, has contracted master pyrotechnician Martin Van Tiel to set off 2000 large shells of fireworks from two barges in the Waitemata Harbour for 10 minutes from midnight.
Dr Van Tiel will co-ordinate this with another fireworks display he is running off the Sky Tower.
He told the Herald yesterday his client, whom he called Kim Dotcom, had businesses in New Zealand and Hong Kong. "He just loves fireworks."
Although he could not say how much the display was costing, another pyrotechnics expert believed it was unlikely to be less than $150,000.
Mr Schmitz was identified by the Herald on Sunday in February as a convicted computer hacker and insider trader who had taken a long lease on the $30 million Coatesville mansion vacated in 2008 by Richard and Ruth Bradley, founders of the Chrisco Christmas hamper empire.
The newspaper said he made his name in Germany in the 1990s as a teenage internet whiz before getting a two-year probationary sentence for hacking into corporate computers and accepting gang-related stolen goods.
In 2001, he bought shares in an ailing web company, pushed up the stock price by announcing he would invest US$100 million ($130 million) in it, and sold out for a large profit.
Also that year, he offered a US$10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Osama bin Laden and founded a vigilante group, Young Intelligent Hackers Against Terrorism.
He was later deported from Thailand and convicted in Germany for insider trading but has since run a Hong Kong-based investment company while travelling between Dubai, Australia, Germany and the Philippines.
Dr Van Tiel said tonight's displays would last twice as long as traditional New Year's events off the Sky Tower. The barges would be up to 750m apart to maximise the visual impact.