Kim Dotcom: from playboy entrepreneur to political firebrand

He was the flamboyant founder of the popular Megaupload site. But when the US got New Zealand police to arrest him on charges of internet piracy, Kim Dotcom began a remarkable fightbackThere are no hot-tubs. No super-yachts. No models in bikinis. My first encounter with Kim Dotcom is disorienting in many respects, not least for the complete lack of luxury goods and inappropriately dressed women present. Before seeing him take to the stage in Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, my image of him has come almost solely from the internet: I’ve seen him posing next to fast cars, sitting on private jets, cavorting with hot chicks. I’ve seen him holding automatic weapons, gurning in front of helicopters and partying at his house, the so-called Dotcom Mansion, New Zealand’s most expensive private home, just outside Auckland. All 6ft 7in of him: a larger-than-life German-Finnish multimillionaire internet mogul-cum-international playboy for whom money, taste and conventional notions about what constitutes an obscene display of wealth have never been any object.But at Christchurch’s cardboard cathedral, a striking temporary structure erected after the city’s devastating earthquakes, there are no babes or expensive consumer items. Kim Dotcom’s Twitter profile pic shows him as a shadowy figure in a black beret and sunglasses, but in the flesh he comes across less like an international fugitive from justice than a misplaced German exchange student. He’s 40, and dressed in black as he invariably is, but there’s still more of the teen geek about him than cyber outlaw being hunted by the FBI. Though that is exactly what he is: in the last two years, the founder of the file-sharing website Megaupload has become, for many, an internet folk hero. The US government alleges he is a pirate, a career criminal who swindled the Hollywood studios out of their rightful copyright earnings, and they are desperately trying to extradite him from his adopted home in New Zealand to stand trial in the US, where he faces up to 88 years in jail. To others, younger people predominantly, he’s up there with Assange and Snowden: a web freedom fighter unwilling to kowtow to the US government’s bullying ways.At the event in Christchurch, he’s articulate, intelligent, personable and in command of his facts, a naturally charismatic public speaker who has drawn a capacity crowd. The reason he’s on stage is because his extraordinary career, one that includes three stints in jail, has just taken an even more extraordinary twist. He’s founded his own political party, the Internet party, which he claims will be the start of a global political youth movement. And if this sounds like so much hot air, you’d be right… except that, in an even more bizarre twist, he may – may – succeed in bringing down the New Zealand government, a rightwing coalition led by former banker John Key.

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