Kim Dotcom, the founder of file-sharing site Megaupload.com who faces a lengthy jail term in the United States if convicted of racketeering, money laundering and Internet piracy, seems to have a mischievous sense of humor.
Shortly after arriving in New Zealand in 2010 and moving into a sprawling luxury estate near Auckland, Dotcom emailed a neighbor who had raised questions about his character, having previously been convicted as a hacker in Germany.
The email was addressed to the local Neighborhood Watch, a community group aimed at stopping crime in the Coatesville area, a nouveau riche community of hobby farms and wealthy city workers.
First of all, let me assure you that having a criminal neighbor like me comes with benefits, Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, wrote in the email, which was sent to Reuters by neighbor France Komoroske.
1. Our newly opened local money laundering facility can help you with your tax fraud optimization. 2. Our network of international insiders can provide you with valuable stock tips. 3. My close personal relations with other (far worse) criminals can help you whenever you have to deal with a nasty neighbor, Dotcom quipped in the email, which Reuters has not been able to corroborate.
Komoroske said the email startled her family.
But Dotcom did try to allay his neighbor's concerns.
In all seriousness: My wife, two kids and myself love New Zealand and 'We come in peace', he wrote.
Fifteen years ago I was a hacker and 10 years ago I was convicted for insider trading. Hardly the kind of crimes you need to start a witch hunt for.
Since then I have been a good boy, my criminal records have been cleared, and I created a successful Internet company that employs 100+ people, he added.
Dotcom then asked his neighbor to choose.
Now you can make a choice: 1: Call Interpol, the CIA, and the Queen of England and try to get me on the next plane out of New Zealand. 2: Sit back, relax and give me a chance to do good for New Zealand and possibly the neighborhood.
Doctom then invited his neighbor over for coffee, adding ... and don't forget to bring the cocaine (joke). All the best, Kim.
Komoroske said she replied to Dotcom, saying, We'd love to come over for coffee. How's tomorrow?
But the invitation was never taken up, after Dotcom demanded Komoroske bring another neighbor, calling the two of them leaders of the Coatesville Inquisition movement.
Reuters was unable to contact Dotcom, who is in custody, and an email to his lawyer was not answered.
Other neighbors spoken to by Reuters said Doctom lived almost a reclusive life in his rented 30-acre estate, occasionally seen driving on the local winding roads, but getting his entourage to organize any jobs on the property.
A New Zealand judge on Wednesday ordered Dotcom - who stands 2 meters (6 ft 6 inches) tall and weighs more than 130 kg (285 lbs) - to be held in custody for another month, saying the suspected Internet pirate posed a significant flight risk.
Dotcom, a German national also known as Kim Tim Jim Vestor, faces a February 22 hearing of an extradition application by the United States.
Prosecutors say Dotcom was the ringleader of a group that netted $175 million by copying and distributing music, movies and other copyrighted content without authorization.
His lawyers say his company, megaupload.com, simply offered online storage, and that he will fight extradition.
(Reporting by Michael Perry, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)