Like many Kiwis, I took an instant dislike to Kim Dotcom. Aside from anything else, it saved time.

The German millionaire's forays into our politics were ill-conceived at best and displayed a degree of self-destructive narcissism that our body politic could well do without. Even bringing the curtain down on Laila Harre's parliamentary career didn't compensate for the damage Internet Mana did to the cause of the Kiwi centre-left.

Beyond his misguided politics, Dotcom's garish displays of wealth and craving for the spotlight have far from endeared him to a nation where we prefer discretion and humility over such ostentation.

But we can't, and nor should we, prosecute and imprison detestable people simply for being detestable. And in the case of Kim Dotcom and his erstwhile colleagues at Mega Upload, questions of justice, dubious political motivations, not to mention basic questions of procedural fairness, must surely outweigh our distaste at the spectre of Kim Dotcom.


The case against Mega Upload has always been questionable on the merits. It's as if the NZ-based company presented the US Department of Justice with low-hanging fruit far easier to pluck off branches than the behemoths who dominate the US tech sector whose practices were indistinguishable from Mega Upload's at the time the charges were brought.

Beyond the strict merits of the case, the means by which US and Kiwi authorities have pursued, and continue to pursue, Dotcom have been egregious, illegal and profoundly at odds with New Zealand's conception of justice.

The dawn raid was nothing short of a disgrace; choppers and machine guns have no place in NZ, let alone over what is at its essence a copyright case. Whether this was John Key's effort to ingratiate himself with the US administration, or some kind of vendetta against Dotcom, or whatever the reason, it was an unmitigated outrage that should cast a cloud over Key's legacy as Prime Minister.

Consider this. The Global Financial Crisis brought countless millions to their knees. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless due to the dodgy bank loans and the reckless conduct of financial titans. For these crimes, with real and countless victims, the US Department of Justice has barely lifted a finger.

Fewer than five criminals responsible for Wall St's moral failures have spent any time behind bars — and for a fraction of the time the feds insist for Dotcom and his colleagues. Why? Because the mortgage-strapped and cash-poor can't afford lobbyists and lawyers to persuade the government to do their bidding.

Dotcom's conduct, however unethical, should have been treated as a civil matter from the outset. Efforts to criminalise the case have extended the life of the proceedings and taken them no further to a resolution. Ironically, overreach by US authorities — namely, the threat of extradition and life sentences — has precluded a just outcome.

New Zealanders should be concerned that John Key and Chris Finlayson — who claimed that Kim Dotcom's efforts to assert his legal rights were "trivial" and "vexatious" — bent over backwards to contribute gleefully in this farce. We should be even more alarmed at the findings of the Human Rights Tribunal who have rejected the Crown's characterisation of Dotcom's grievances and awarded him damages.

The tribunal offered a stinging and detailed critique of the Government's conduct in this matter, Finlayson's role in particular.

With a new Government in place, surely it is past time to draw a clear line under this episode so people like me can get back to taunting Kim Dotcom on Twitter for his bad ideas, and looking forward to his eventual departure on legally appropriate grounds.


• Phil Quinn has worked for Labour governments in New Zealand and Australia. He is now a freelance writer living in Colombia ("for the cost of living, lifestyle, weather").