David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Dotcom: I will beat charges

Dotcom says he loves New Zealand and still wants to raise his family here. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Dotcom says he loves New Zealand and still wants to raise his family here. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom has broken his silence to talk about life inside jail, the difficulty he has had settling into the country he wants his children to call home - and how he will beat the United States.

In his first interview since being granted bail, Dotcom said he was stunned to be locked up in prison over claims of criminal copyright infringements when accused murderers were bailed to await trial.

He said his month behind bars at Auckland Central Remand Prison had led him to consider appealing to the Department of Corrections to review treatment of those who had yet to be convicted of any crime.

"The first night I didn't have a blanket, soap, toothpaste or toilet paper. They didn't provide us with the basic things.

"Every two hours, they would wake me up. I was deprived of sleep. I wrote a complaint. I said, 'This is torture, this is sleep deprivation'."

During the day, Dotcom - who court records stated earned $50 million last year - would mix with other prisoners being kept on remand.

He met methamphetamine cooks who claimed to have prior convictions for manslaughter, and an inmate who showed him a criminal record with an extensive history of convictions. "I'm thinking, 'What am I doing in here?"'

Despite the notoriety of his case, Dotcom said had no bad experiences with any of the inmates.

If there was a bright side to his time in jail, he said, it was weight loss - he dropped 16kg in the month inside.

Dotcom, who founded the filesharing website Megaupload, denied any deliberate copyright infringement by his company. He said the US could not win the case - although it would take years of fighting through courts to prove his innocence.

Dotcom and three others were arrested in a January 20 raid by New Zealand police after a request from the US Department of Justice. In a co-ordinated global move, the US authorities shut down Megaupload - which carried 4 per cent of global internet traffic - and froze hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.

He was bailed last week to a $5m home north of urban Auckland.

Yesterday, he faced down an appeal over bail, defeating claims he was a flight risk. He shares his home, which is next to his former $30 million mansion, with wife Mona, who is pregnant with twins, and their three children.

Dotcom, who was granted residency under the National government's investor category, said he still wanted to live in New Zealand and raise his family here.

He said it had been difficult fitting into the country after encountering people whose opinions appeared to be shaped by what they had read about him online, which was inaccurate.

He had become the unwelcome centre of a neighbourhood controversy, which included complaints to the office of Prime Minister John Key about his driving at speed.

He said he and Mona left the property increasingly less as they felt more and more unwelcome.

Odd reactions from people began almost from the moment he decided to move to New Zealand, he said. He visited a car yard to buy a Mercedes using his credit card, which cleared and confirmed the payment.

However, after leaving the car yard, he was phoned and told the sale had been cancelled.

He was told the decision had been made after someone put his name through a Google search.

"This is the country where I want to live and where I want my children to grow up. I love it here."

Dotcom said the indictment used by the US Department of Justice to trigger the raid represented only a fraction of the real picture. "For every email they have in the indictment, I have 100 others that disprove it."

He said the evidence that would clear him was also held by US authorities and questioned why prosecutors had presented such a one-sided picture.

The evidence included email trails in which Dotcom had personally requested sites carrying links to infringing material to stop linking to Megaupload.

"How do you cherry-pick in a way which is so misleading and so malicious? For me, sitting in my cell, I'm thinking, 'Why are they doing this? They can't win it'."

Dotcom said there was clear evidence he and his team had worked to stop copyright infringement.

The evidence stemmed from Megaupload's terms of service, which forced users to agree they would not post copyrighted material to the website.

He said the first indictment, used to trigger the January 20 worldwide assault on his company, had not included the company's terms of service.

He said it was a critical piece of evidence to leave out of the indictment, which had convinced authorities around the world to co-operate with the United States.

The second indictment, issued a month later, did include parts of the terms of service.

Dotcom also said firms with concerns were given their own direct access to Megaupload to delete infringing links. There were also 20 staff dedicated to taking down material which might infringe copyright, he said.

One difficulty Megaupload faced was it was issued "take down" notices by copyright holders which turned out to be links to material legally owned by its users.

"We determined that 10 per cent of all take-downs were false but we continued to take down every link that was reported to us."

Dotcom said US authorities knew his movements before the raids, and would have known he was planning to visit the US.

Instead of waiting, they acted in New Zealand, forcing everyone into an expensive and time-consuming extradition battle.

"They knew Mona and I were planning a trip to the US about six months after the twins were born. If you look at how long extradition can take, they could have waited for us to arrive in the US."

He said that during his time in jail, he made trips to and from the North Shore court for bail hearings in a prison van which felt as if it had no suspension.

He said back pain from a slipped disc had become extreme while on the trips. He had been held in restraints inside a small cage, sitting on a metal bench.

Dotcom said one prison trip had led to his being treated in the prison medical unit.

Every bump the van travelled over had sent shockwaves of pain up his back.

When he finally got back to prison, he tumbled from the van to the ground. "I was put on a blanket and dragged to the health unit.

"They gave me pain relief medication and then I was taken back to my cell in a wheelchair. I couldn't move for three days."

The prison routine carried other unwelcome burdens. "Every two hours at night, someone is opening that little window and putting a flashlight in your face to see if you are still there, still alive."

- NZ Herald

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