Editorial: Kim Dotcom sets off year of fireworks for politicians

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John Key became more directly involved when Mr Dotcom's lawyers exposed improper surveillance by the Government's external intelligence agency. Photo / File
John Key became more directly involved when Mr Dotcom's lawyers exposed improper surveillance by the Government's external intelligence agency. Photo / File

It is not quite a year since the Herald reported that "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 'Kimble' 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 ..."

If that spectacular display did not make Mr Dotcom a household name, the New Zealand police soon did. On January 20 this year, acting on a request from the United States, a squad of 76 officers assisted by two helicopters made a dawn raid on his Coatesville mansion, taking Dotcom and three associates into custody for extradition to face charges of racketeering, money-laundering and copyright infringement.

That was the beginning of the most extraordinary story of the year. At the end of it, Mr Dotcom is still here though his site remains down.

His legal team has had the better of the Crown at every court proceeding, and the big, jovial internet mogul has become so respectable he was invited to turn on Franklin Rd's lights this Christmas.

In the course of events he has almost certainly destroyed the career of former Auckland mayor John Banks and the Act Party's prospects of survival. Mr Dotcom's account of how he was urged to split a $50,000 mayoral campaign contribution gave an insight to how our electoral finance laws can be abused. The Prime Minister chose not to read the police account of events and Mr Banks, disgracefully, did not resign.

John Key became more directly involved when Mr Dotcom's lawyers exposed improper surveillance by the Government's external intelligence agency.

The Prime Minister's oversight of the agency has been found wanting. It may be, as Mr Key claims, that "nobody cares about Kim Dotcom except Kim Dotcom" but his Coatesville constituent has been a constant distraction for him in a year that he could have done without it.

He had enough on his plate with the sale of the Crafar farms, his pokie deal for a Sky City convention centre, ACC debacles and Maori litigation against the first asset sale. Mr Key's comment that he could ignore a finding of the Waitangi Tribunal, made on the morning the hearings opened, was the most ill-judged of several careless remarks during the year. None of this has done him or his party much harm in the polls.

But the Dotcom saga has been important for many reasons. Most obviously, it has caused further concerns about excessive police methods, their willingness to act at the request of the US FBI, inconsistent character rules for immigration and property ownership, the use of the Government Communications Security Bureau for domestic spying, its inattentive political supervision and much else that our reporter David Fisher has uncovered this year.

But Mr Dotcom has also been an object of fascinations for his extravagant lifestyle, before and since settling in New Zealand. He rents the "Chrisco" mansion, living with his small family, large staff, cars that cost a fortune and toys such as inflatable tanks and rhinos.

More interestingly, he has made his fortune on a globally successful website. He is one of those celebrated figures of the modern world, a fabulously wealthy geek.

It remains to be seen whether New Zealand courts force him to face American copyright law, but he has been good for this country. He exposed things we needed to know and did so with an unfailing sense of fun.

- NZ Herald

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