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Kim Dotcom hits back at US prosecutors

By Kathy Marks

Helicopters buzzed overhead and armed men in uniform abseiled down the walls of an opulent mansion in the countryside outside Auckland yesterday.

But this time the "police raid" was just a stunt to herald Kim Dotcom's launch of a new file-sharing website, to replace the one closed down by US authorities a year ago.

Mr Dotcom - born Kim Schmitz - is on bail and fighting extradition to the US over charges his Megaupload website facilitated the illegal sharing of copyrighted films, TV shows and music. But the cyber tycoon, who moved to New Zealand from Hong Kong in 2010, denies thumbing his nose at prosecutors and Hollywood by creating a new file-sharing service, called Mega.

"Mega is going to be huge and nothing will stop Mega," the flamboyant German declared yesterday, shortly before a lavish launch party in the sprawling grounds of his rented NZ$30m (£15.8m) home.

The 39-year-old claimed the new site - which, like Megaupload, enables users to store and share large files - was legally watertight. Sophisticated encryption software ensures files are accessible only to people who upload them, and who can decide with whom to share them. On Megaupload, users could search for files. On Mega, since the content is hidden from site administrators, they bear no responsibility for it, or so Mr Dotcom argues.

Others may disagree, but that did not dampen Mr Dotcom's spirits yesterday. Mega, he told 200 party guests, had half a million registered users within hours of starting up.

The mood at Dotcom Mansion was very different a year ago, when he was awakened by the dawn arrival of New Zealand police officers. They found him cowering in a "panic room", near a safe containing a shotgun.

The officers, armed with automatic weapons and acting on a request from the FBI, confiscated millions of dollars worth of cars, Harley Davidson motorbikes, jetskis and artworks.

In what has been called the world's biggest online piracy case, US authorities allege Mr Dotcom earned more than US$175m (£110m) from advertising on Megaupload and from the site's premium paid service. Charged with money laundering, racketeering and copyright theft, he could be jailed for up to 55 years if convicted. His extradition hearing is in August.

The convicted hacker turned internet mogul, who has compared himself, variously, with Bill Gates and Julian Assange, denies the charges.

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