AUCKLAND — Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom was granted bail in New Zealand Wednesday after previously being kept behind bars over fears he would flee the country to escape US online piracy charges.
The 38-year-old German national has been in custody since January 20, when New Zealand police, cooperating with a major US probe, raided his sprawling “Dotcom Mansion” in Auckland.
Judge Nevin Dawson overturned two previous rulings that the Internet millionaire was an “extreme flight risk” because he had the wealth and connections to slip out of the country.
Dawson said the danger of Dotcom fleeing had diminished because all his funds had been seized and investigators had not uncovered any new bank accounts or assets in his name since his arrest.
“It would seem that he has every reason to stay to be with his family and to fight to keep his significant assets,” Dawson said.
US authorities are seeking to extradite Dotcom, the founder of file-sharing website Megaupload.com, for allegedly masterminding “massive worldwide online piracy”.
The US Justice Department and FBI allege Megaupload and related sites netted more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners over $500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.
Megaupload was founded in 2005 but shut down last month when its assets were frozen as part of the US probe.
A US request for Dotcom’s extradition is expected to be lodged in court later Wednesday.
Three other Megaupload executives arrested with Dotcom, who legally changed his name from Kim Schmitz and denies any wrongdoing, had already been granted bail.