A wild online ride hits the digital piracy wall

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He appeared in an online video depicting himself living it up on a superyacht in Monaco, with beautiful women draped on his arms: “Kim Schmitz is a PR man’s nightmare and a journalist’s dream,” wrote the Telegraph.

A German court would hear later that he had pulled a textbook “pump-and-dump” move, borrowing money to buy Letsbuyit shares, and then quickly selling them to those who swallowed his investment story, gaining himself a quick profit of 1.1 million euros ($1.4 million).

But before authorities could catch up with him on the LetsBuyIt scam came the Sept. 11 attacks, and he captured fresh headlines by offering $10 million for the capture of Osama bin Laden. He claimed to have formed Yihat _ Young Intelligent Hackers Against Terrorism _ to wage cyberwar against banks harboring terrorist money.

That one backfired on him when hacker pranksters calling themselves Fluffy Bunny posted a lewd picture on his website.

Sought by German authorities over the LetsBuyIt scam, he fled to Thailand In January 2002, writing on his website that “A German high-tech fairy tale is to end.”

He then posted a troubling message suggesting he would commit suicide on his 28th birthday.

“Enough is Enough. Kim Schmitz will die next Monday. See it on this website live and for free. When the countdown is over, Kim steps into a new world and wants you to see it.”

Authorities got to him first, arresting him at a Bangkok airport a few days before his birthday. He had meanwhile posted another strange message to his site: Henceforth he would answer to the title of “His Royal Highness King Kimble the First, Ruler of the Kimpire.”

In May that year he was back in a Munich court, convicted of manipulating stock prices in the LetsBuyIt scam. Again he got lucky, avoiding jail but drawing a fine of 100,000 euros ($130,000).

He also claimed to have learned something about the perils of the spotlight. “My mistake was that I embraced the media and gave them the stories they wanted,” he wrote on the filesharing-news website TorrentFreak.

But it didn’t take him long to get back in the fast lane. George Gurley, a reporter writing for Vanity Fair magazine, came across him at the 2004 Gumball 3000 rally, an unofficial European road race for jet-setters, driving at 250 kph (155 mph).

“He’s a controversial figure here, part buffoon, part Dr. Evil, but a skilled and very fast driver,” the reporter wrote.

The next year he launched his most significant venture, registering Megaupload.com in Hong Kong. And he reinvented himself, legally changing his name first to Kim Tim Jim Vestor, then to Kim Dotcom.

“Hong Kong, what an awesome place to do business and to host my new phantom persona,” he wrote on TorrentFreak. “People there leave you alone and they are happy for your success.”

It took a few years before authorities began paying attention to Megaupload.

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