13 March 2012

Megaupload founder's money secured New Zealand visa despite criminal past

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Documents recently released under the country's public records laws reveal that Megaupload's founder, Kim Dotcom, secured a New Zealand visa by promising to contribute heavily to the country’s economy, despite having criminal convictions in other countries.

New Zealand visa

How Kim Dotcom came to gain legal residency in New Zealand has been thrown into doubt since his high profile arrest.

The validity of the Internet entrepreneur's New Zealand visa was brought into question after Dotcom was arrested for copyright infringement and racketeering and his websites closed down in January.

Dotcom was arrested by New Zealand immigration authorities and has been held in New Zealand while he awaits extradition to the United States to face charges.

When making his residency application, the released documents show Dotcom made several large charitable contributions in New Zealand which included sponsoring a fireworks show in Auckland. These contributions, combined with Dotcom's intention to lease the most expensive home in New Zealand are also thought to have carried weight in his application.

The documents also reveal Dotcom threatened to move to Australia or Canada if his application was denied.

Despite these threats and past criminal convictions for inside trading, stock market manipulation and receipt of stolen goods, Dotcom's residency application was granted under the Special Investor Category which grants visas to applicants prepared to invest NZ$10 million (£5.25 million) in government bonds.

"The applicant has already made a substantial economic contribution to New Zealand through his spending here and will make further investments," said immigration official Chris Biggs at the time. "I consider that these benefits and potential benefits outweigh the negative aspects flowing from the applicant's convictions."

Dotcom maintains his innocence, in an interview with news site TorrentFreak, Dotcom insisted that US authorities 'cherry picked' evidence used to indict him and Megaupload had several accounts from US government officials.

"We found a large number of Mega accounts from US government officials, including the department of Justice and US Senate.

"I hope we will soon have permission to give them and the rest of our uses access to their files."

New Zealand officials have defended the visa category which granted Dotcom his visa; Prime Minister John Key confirmed that the majority of applicants granted visas under this category have significantly benefited New Zealand and its economy.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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