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Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom back in court Monday

Friday 20 Jan 2012 5:45 p.m.

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By Adam Hollingworth

New Zealand is at the centre of one of the world's biggest internet piracy investigations.

Dozens of police, including the Armed Offenders Squad, conducted dawn raids on behalf of the FBI on homes around Auckland, including the $30 million former Chrisco mansion.

Four men were arrested. One is a 37-year-old millionaire who goes by the name of Kim Dotcom.

He is the man behind the world's largest file-sharing site, Megaupload.com, which the FBI says is involved in large scale copyright breaches.

The four men appeared in the North Shore District Court late this afternoon as the FBI began extradition proceedings.

They are the brains behind an operation that is alleged to have cost copyright holders more than $US500 million in lost revenue.

Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz in Germany, founded the company and is a Finnish citizen, resident of Hong Kong and now New Zealand.

The other three on the dock included Dutch programmer in charge Bram van der Kolk - who is also a New Zealand resident.

And two other Germans, chief marketing and sales officer Finn Batato and chief technical officer Mathias Ortmann.

They have been remanded in custody to appear in court again on Monday. 

The four were arrested on warrants relating to breach of copyright offences in the United States, money laundering and racketeering.

Seventy-six officers raided Dotcom’s mansion in Coatesville at 6.45 this morning, arresting three men, and another in Orakei.

Three other suspects are still at large in other countries.

Raids took place around the world, under the coordination of the FBI. Search warrants were executed in eight other countries including Hong Kong, Europe and North America.

In New Zealand, police had to contend with a bodyguard - and seized two shotguns - but detectives say their raid went to plan.

“Be fair to say there was a range of security measures we had to get beyond, it wasn't just a case of knocking on the door,” says Detective inspector Grant Wormald

And as up to a dozen staff and family members remained at the Chrisco mansion, father raids were conducted on 10 other properties around Auckland in the search for assets.

Police have already seized $10 million, including New Zealand Government bonds, plus assets, with cars alone valued at $6 million.

The property police say is subject to forfeiture includes $US175 million, the contents of 64 bank accounts worldwide and several artworks.

Cars being seized included a 2010 Maserati, a Lamborghini, a 2008 Rolls Royce Phantom with the personalised plate “god”.

And 15 Mercedes Benzes with plates such as “stoned”, “mafia”, “hacker” and “guilty”.

Guilty or not, Megaupload has its supporters and the group known as anonymous claims to have succeeded in pulling down the US Department of Justice website and Warner Brothers. Just the first salvos in what could be a cyber war - triggered by four men in New Zealand

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