The glorious alliance of US crime fighters and Big Content had a slight set-back in their attempts to keep alleged internet pirate Kim Dotcom behind bars.
Big Content wanted to keep Kim Dotcom behind bars until they could parcel him off to a US kangaroo court and until now seemed to have the backing of New Zealand prosecutors and courts.
However, accoriding to AP, now a kiwi judge has freed him from jail and put him under house arrest and banned him from using the internet.
Until now the US authorities had claimed the multi-millionaire’s purported flight risk was a good reason for keeping him locked up.
But Judge Nevin Dawson said that bail could be awarded, given that there was no new evidence that Dotcom had undisclosed funds he could use to aid in a flight from justice. Prosecutors had seized all his cash so he had no money and short of swimming to South America he was going to find it difficult to flee the country.
Dotcom said he was relieved to go home and see his three little kids and his pregnant wife. He vowed to fight the eventual extradition hearing on U.S. charges of copyright piracy, racketeering and money laundering.
Under the bail conditions, Dotcom must live in a small house near the mansion he had rented and wear an electronic tag. He will be restricted in how far he can travel. The judge also banned helicopters from flying to or landing on the property.
Big Content claims that Dotcom was the ringleader of organised criminals that netted $175 million since 2005 by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorisation.
Dotcom’s lawyers say the company just offered online storage and that he strenuously denies the US charges.
Dotcom’s three co-accused were bailed until late August for the hearing of a US extradition request.
The US Justice Department has not made a formal extradition application yet but the Kiwi coppers expect that one is in the post. This is a little odd as it means that the New Zealand police actually arrested Dotcom, and seized all his assets, on a nod from the US.
A US grand jury added more charges against Megaupload and its executives, alleging they took copyrighted material from sites such as YouTube for its own service.