New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key on Tuesday labelled Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom a political “sugar daddy” who is dabbling in the country’s general election because he hopes it might help him escape justice.
The founder of the Megaupload file-sharing site, who is fighting extradition to the United States on online piracy charges, has founded the Internet Party to contest the September 20 election and formed an alliance with an existing left-wing Maori-based party called Mana.
While the flamboyant 40-year-old cannot stand as a candidate because he is a German national, his citizenship does not stop him launching a political party and having a say on its policies.
Key said Mana has only aligned itself with Dotcom, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz, because he is pouring NZ$3.0 million ($2.6 million) into a joint campaign with his party.
He also questioned Dotcom’s motives for becoming involved in politics, suggesting he is looking to gain political influence in a bid to help his legal case.
“He is a sugar daddy for them (Mana), he is a chequebook,” Key told TV3.
“I don’t think we should have any pretences about what he’s trying to do, which is stop being extradited from New Zealand and really trying to buy his way around the judicial process in a way that no other New Zealander could.”
The US Justice Department and FBI claim Megaupload and related sites netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds, and cost copyright owners more than US$500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.
Dotcom says he did nothing illegal and is fighting the charges, which were laid after armed New Zealand police swooped on his Auckland mansion in a dawn raid in 2012.
Dotcom, who is free on bail ahead of an extradition hearing scheduled for February next year, has made no secret of his hope that Key fails to win a third term, accusing the conservative leader of being a stooge for a copyright crusade by Hollywood moguls.
Key’s National Party is tracking above 50 percent in most opinion polls, although New Zealand’s complicated proportional voting system is notoriously hard to predict.
Internet-Mana could prove a wild card if it reaches the five percent threshold needed to guarantee a political party representation in parliament.
Dotcom has denied any ulterior motive behind his party’s establishment, saying he wants to improve New Zealand’s Internet infrastructure and galvanise a generation of young voters who feel disenfranchised under the current system.