Born Kim Schmitz in Germany, Dotcom, who changed his name in 2005, has been in trouble before. He was convicted in 1998 in Germany of computer fraud and dealing in stolen phone cards. In 2002, he was convicted of manipulating the stock price of an Internet startup. Both times, he was fined but managed to avoid jail time. He also portrayed himself at the time as a super hacker, although German hackers spoken to by the AP say he did little of what he claimed. He moved to New Zealand after gaining residency in 2010.
Asked if he might be being fooled by a clever conman, Wozniak said it “could very well be the case.”
“If I hear details that have credibility, I could totally turn against him,” Wozniak said. “But I’m not finding it anywhere from what I’ve heard so far.”
Dotcom has portrayed himself as the victim in rare interviews and on his new Twitter account, where he’s posted photos of his family. He’s also been thumbing his nose at authorities and the case against him. One photo he posted shows him standing in a field, his arms outstretched, with the caption “Flight risk!!!!” Another photo shows a colleague scrubbing bills in a bowl of soapy water: “Money laundering.”
The irreverence and anti-authoritarian streak has appealed to many New Zealanders. In the eight days since starting his Twitter account, Dotcom has amassed more than 40,000 followers, rivaling the 51,000 who follow New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key.
Ira Rothken, one of Dotcom’s lawyers, said he is pleased with the way New Zealand authorities have relaxed Dotcom’s bail rules pending an August extradition hearing by gradually removing the restrictions on his movements and freeing some of his assets so he can pay personal expenses.
Dotcom’s lawyers are seeking to have the case against the company _ although not the individuals _ thrown out on the basis that Hong Kong-based Megaupload had no legal presence in the U.S. They’re also seeking the release of millions of dollars to pay for the legal fees.
Dotcom said he’s optimistic New Zealand will deny the U.S. extradition request and is hopeful the U.S. will eventually drop the criminal case. Then, he said, he’d be free to focus on launching some new products, including a music service he’s named “megabox.” For now, he’s got a new crowd offering support.
“That’s why I love the Internet,” he tweeted last week. “From zero to 1000 followers in one day. Let’s make history together.”