Kim Dotcom, the eccentric founder of cyber-locker website MegaUpload, will have more than $800,000 in assets returned to him thanks to a decision Monday by the High Court of New Zealand, according to Radio New Zealand.
The decision comes on the wake of a fresh political scandal set off by Dotcom, who told The New Zealand Herald that he donated NZ$50,000 to ACT Party leader John Banks, currently a key government figure. He, along with prime Minister John Key, serve as leaders of the ruling coalition government, but that could all change if he's toppled.
Dotcom claimed that Banks had even thanked him for the donations, which were split up into two installments to help conceal the tech entrepreneur's name. Banks claimed Monday that he was not aware of any donations from Dotcom, and that he never called to thank him. Police said they were investigating the claims.
Meanwhile, police who staged a raid on Dotcom's home are sure to be seething at Monday's High Court decision, which hinged upon a faulty warrant that police later tried to amend. New Zealand Justice Judith Potter noted last month that it wasn’t until hours after the raid that police realized their mistakes and actually applied for the proper court order, seeking to make it retroactive by listing targeted assets that had already been seized.
Dotcom, who legally changed his name from Kim Schmitz, has denied all wrongdoing and called the case against him “malicious” and “political.” He even claimed earlier this month that once his company’s files are returned to him, they would reveal names of U.S. government officials who allegedly used MegaUpload. Dotcom said they include Department of Justice and U.S. Senate employees.
To make matters more complicated for the prosecution, police were recently said to have "lost" a video of the raid on Dotcom's mansion, and Dotcom has claimed that several key pieces of evidence against him were actually files he legally owned.
He’s since been granted bail and remains on house arrest in New Zealand, pending an extradition request from the U.S. — which becomes more difficult thanks to Monday's ruling. Dotcom was previously only allowed a small monthly allowance in interest from New Zealand government bonds he owns, whereas the assets that will be returned to him, some $614,000 in cash and two vehicles worth over $250,000, will significantly bolster his legal defense.
Dotcom further claims that MegaUpload, which had more than 50 million users when it was shut down, was preparing for a "multi-billion dollar" public offering on Wall Street, and was waiting in line to have its internals thoroughly examined by one of the major accounting firms that helps companies go public. Those efforts were reportedly still ongoing in January, when U.S. and New Zealand officials shut the site down based upon damage claims from U.S. movie and music studios.
(H/T: Ars Technica)