David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Dotcom: When I met Mona, it all changed

Kim and Mona Dotcom. Photo / Michael Craig
Kim and Mona Dotcom. Photo / Michael Craig

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Read more: Inside Kim Dotcom's mind
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In this exclusive extract from a new book written by David Fisher, Kim Dotcom relates how he met his future wife Mona - and the efforts to woo her


"I've always been a playboy. I've always had a lot of girls, a lot of fun and I didn't care too much about having a relationship. I just wanted to have fun," he says. "When I met Mona, all of that changed."

The couple met in a club in Manila in November 2007. Mona Verga has been a part of Dotcom's life since.

"I've not betrayed her once and I can't say that of any other relationship I have had. I would never do it because I really found my soulmate and the love of my life."

Her arrival came as Megaupload was preparing to shed its fledgling roots, expanding in customer base, growth, revenue and size as larger streams of bandwidth became available to the internet public.

The business was expanding beyond expectations yet - at that stage - staying far enough below the radar that it was not yet treated like the internet pariah the United States would eventually make it.

Dotcom was, at the time, a techno taipan. He would work in and out of Hong Kong but enjoyed a designer life in the Phillipines where his growing wealth embraced the trappings which came with it. There were motorcycle escorts to and from the airport, instant access to the cutting edge of any night life entertainments and a willing crowd of followers along for a good time.

The hottest club in town was the Embassy night club, which Dotcom and his entourage frequented, taking over the VIP area every time they arrived.

Mona, then 19, was on the dance floor when she caught Dotcom's attention. He was in a relationship at the time but, regardless, told his PA he wanted to know who she was and where she had come from. The PA was sent into the crowd with an invitation to join the group for a drink in the VIP area. The invitation was refused.

"She's here with a friend and doesn't really want to," the PA told Dotcom. She was sent out into the club again to ask if Mona would simply come over to say hello. The second overture succeeded, Dotcom was instantly smitten.

"I was stunned ... I was absolutely in love. This was love at first sight. It hasn't changed since. It has just grown."

It wasn't easy, at the outset. "I fell in love with Mona but she didn't fall in love with me right away." Concerned that his weight was an issue, Dotcom set out to "show her how important she is for me".

He lost 45kg. Unaccustomed to exercise, he started doing the Victoria Peak walk daily. The trek up and around the half-a-kilometre high mountain rising behind Hong Kong was challenging. He cut carbohydrates from his diet, eating vegetable soup and salads.

"The first month was extremely exhausting ... it was a battle." But the weight fell off his frame. A jaw line emerged and any extra chins he had disappeared. "My tummy was almost gone. I felt good. I had good energy. I could move fast."

Wealthy and slimming, Dotcom started attracting attention from other women. When he and Mona went on holiday to the Philippines, "she sees how the other girls are looking at me. I start to become more acceptable and they would be flirting with me."

"What did she do? She cooked for me. She made me pasta. She said, 'Come on, baby, it's a holiday'." He laughs at the memory - having reformed, he fell back into his old ways. "I would have gone all the way and I would be skinny fnow." Instead, he says, Mona accepted the man he was.

"I accept you the way you are, I love you, I'll cook for you," she said.

"I think she regrets it now. It's affecting my health and my back. Back in the day, she felt like I was getting too handsome."

For Mona, Dotcom's interest didn't just affect her, it affected her entire family. His growing fortune brought with it obvious potential dangers. With kidnapping a major business in the Philippines, his wealth made him and all those close to him a target. The developing relationship with Mona drew her and her family into the circle of risk.

By the time they were wed, on July 10, 2009, Dotcom had extended his support by drawing the family together into a large home in a gated community, complete with security and staff.

"They can take all my money and everything, I don't give a shit as long as I am with her and the kids. It's really true love. If anything would happen to her, (if) we wouldn't be together, that's the one thing I wouldn't survive.

"Mona is the love of my life."


Family life in New Zealand

Kim and Mona Dotcom first visited New Zealand on a fortnight's holiday in 2008, not long after they had met. The romance was wickedly quick - the couple had married and she was already pregnant with their first child, Kimmo. It was the sort of visit which is restricted to the super rich, even though Dotcom's earnings from Megaupload were more than $US4 million at the time - they were yet to skyrocket to the incredible levels they would in a few years. The couple jetted into Auckland, then flew to Taupo's exclusive Huka Lodge by helicopter and tripped about.

[In 2009] Dotcom returned to Hong Kong with the idea of moving somewhere else in the world growing in his mind. He browsed the web for the sort of places he wanted to live and raise a family.

A mansion in the Auckland suburb of Coatesville was listed for sale on the Sotheby's website. "Sotheby's had this property listed, $35 million US with all the pictures. Because we liked New Zealand on that first holiday I found that property ... looked at the pictures and got in touch with the owner." Dotcom said the couple wouldn't buy it outright, instead wanting to spend a month in the house to "see how it feels" and "if it is compatible with us ... We agreed to an $80,000 lease for one month all included, and that's how it all evolved from there."

The Dotcoms moved into the mansion for a month in early 2010 - the year in which Dotcom's recorded earnings would peak at $40,784,000, according to internal accounting records intercepted by the FBI. "Let's get this process started, and move here because we really like the house and we like New Zealand," he said.

"If you lived in Hong Kong like me for many years, you start missing nature. You start missing green, you start missing fresh air. Also, Hong Kong has quite a humid, hot climate and you are constantly under air con. I wanted to have at least for a few months of the year a normal place where we could breathe normal air."

For Dotcom, the family he and Mona had planned was a major factor in considering moving. "It was something I wanted to do for Mona because she had only seen the Philippines and Hong Kong prior to our trip here. I wanted to show her the world and show her around and to have a family together."

"[For] all of our kids we did IVF, so we went to a doctor, they took her eggs and they took my stuff and put them together and we had eight embryos. We knew we wanted to use them. All of our kids are IVF babies. We knew we were going to have a big family and we wanted to be somewhere we can see that family grow in a nice beautiful environment. Hong Kong is just not a great place to bring up kids. We wanted a really nice environment for them, and Hong Kong just didn't have what we wanted."

Dotcom found that becoming a father had fundamentally shifted the ground on which he stood. He now had two children, with another on the way. The fourth and fifth - the twins born in March 2012 - were still some time off, but the couple's hopes for a large family were becoming real.

"Your brain gets re-wired. You stop thinking what can I do to have fun and start thinking where do I want my kids to grow up and how can I give them the safest and best environment? One of the (reasons) why I picked New Zealand over Australia is simple stuff like poisonous animals. I didn't like the thought of my kids playing somewhere outdoors in a garden where there are poisonous spiders or scorpions or snakes or stuff like that. In New Zealand, you don't have that.

"There were so many things I thought about - how are they compatible with my thinking of safety around the kids and the family.

I know there's not a lot of people who get stung or hurt. But just the thought you would need to worry about that when your kids are playing in the garden - I don't like that."


The neighbours' reaction

One concerned neighbour was upset about horses being scared by cars roaring up and down the road. She checked out Dotcom's background online and found references to his past as a hacker then, armed with "proof", she sent an email to the Neighbourhood Watch committee, set up to protect home security and the guard the community's wellbeing. One neighbour sent the email to mansion owner Richard Bradley to let him know what type of character was living it up at the mansion. He in turn, sent the email to Dotcom.

When he got the email, Dotcom was first outraged then frustrated.

Calming down, he wrote his own email, using the addresses in the copy he had received. "I was having a joke. I couldn't believe what she was saying about me."

Dotcom's April 2010 email started out telling locals he was a "former hacker" and he had come across the Neighbourhood Watch email while "hacking into a local mail server".

"First of all let me assure you that having a criminal neighbour like me comes with benefits," he wrote. "Our newly opened local money laundering facility can help you with your tax fraud optimization. Our network of international insiders can provide you with valuable stock tips. My close personal relations with other (far worse) criminals can help you whenever you have to deal with a nasty neighbour."

Then he played down the fears, saying there was no need to start a "witch hunt ... My wife, two kids and myself love New Zealand and 'We come in peace'."

His crimes were old, he said, as was his hacking. "Since then I have been a good boy, my criminal records have been cleared, and I created a successful Internet company that employs 100+ people."

It's time to make a choice, he said. "Call Interpol, the CIA, and the Queen of England and try to get me on the next plane out of New Zealand (or) ... Sit back, relax and give me a chance to do good for New Zealand and possibly the neighbourhood." He signed off with an invitation for coffee. "And don't forget to bring the cocaine (joke)."

Looking back, Dotcom says of the email: "It was just me saying, 'Who do you think you are?"'

The invitation for coffee was followed up with other emailed offers to visit and say hello. The Dotcoms tried, awkwardly. Staff were put on alert for possible visitors. Dotcom was a little pensive, waiting. In the end, nobody came. In fact, some neighbours took Dotcom's other options. One gentleman, in his 80s, contacted Interpol to raise concerns.

He also rang the electorate office of Prime Minister John Key, pointing out a "master criminal" had moved into the neighbourhood.

Others approached the Prime Minister's electorate office - one of a number of delegations there John Key later said he was never told of - to warn about Dotcom's interest in buying the house and obtaining New Zealand residency.

"None of them has ever come to see me, or spoken to me or has any idea who I am," says Dotcom, "but there is this group of a few dozen people who wanted to organise a movement to get me out of the country. I was so shocked by that."

Dotcom talked about it with Mona. "How we talked about just forgetting about living in New Zealand and we were looking at other opportunities, Canada and Switzerland, we talked about Germany.

"In the end we decided for the family. This was the best option for the kids. We didn't want to give up on New Zealand. We felt like this is still the right place to grow a family. But in hindsight, thinking about our headspace at that time, thinking about leaving here ... It would have been the best thing for us."

The Secret Life of Kim Dotcom: Spies, Lies and the War for the Internet
By David Fisher
Published by Paul Little Books, November 25. RRP $39.95. Ships worldwide. Also available in ebook format from Amazon.

- NZ Herald

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