Playboy’s Paradise – a New Brand for New Zealand?

NZ was enjoying the fruits of Dotcom’s labour

The Auckland arrest of billionaire Kim Dotcom, an investor and online piracy facilitator file-sharing host, in his mansion made worldwide news headlines – and cost Kiwi taxpayers at least $70,000. Along with American agents, the New Zealand police had been conducting an investigation into Dotcom’s website Megaupload since August of last year. He and six others were part of a group called the “Mega Conspiracy”, charged with reproducing and illegally distributing “free” copies of proprietary works such as software, films, TV programmes, music and books.

Dotcom was granted New Zealand residency in November 2010, under a scheme whereby he had to invest $10 million in government bonds and pass a test of good character. Despite strict regulations about the sorts of foreigners permitted to take up residency in the Pacific nation – thin people, people with low blood pressure, and the non-handicapped – Mr Dotcom, thought to be an obese diabetic with a slipped disc and hypertension, was welcomed with open arms. The health requirements link under the NZIS investor category information page is a 404. His past criminal convictions, sufficient to refuse him ownership of Kiwi land, were nonetheless glossed over when granting him residency.  In 1998 he had been sentenced to two years for handling stolen goods and credit card fraud. In 2001, he was charged with illegal speculations on the stock market and fraudulent misuse of funds. The following year, he was arrested in Thailand and sentenced in Germany for fraudulent misuse of funds. Presumably, there is a statute of limitations for the purposes of evaluation of fitness for residency?  Yes, dating from 1950, and it was repealed in January 2011.

Kim’s lifestyle, in a country where according to Darrin Hodgetts, poverty is the biggest growth industry, was conspicuous and even frightening, but no one could accuse him of not spreading the money around: large dollops were tossed merrily to politicians and the New Zealand Government. But it wasn’t actually the New Zealand Lifestyle he was after.  Internet security expert Jeffrey Carr has suggested that “New Zealand is under the radar, away from Interpol and a better lifestyle than Eastern Europe.”

Now a father of five, Dotcom was charged this time with five counts of copyright infringement and money laundering, along with other employees of his company and its subsidiaries: Megaporn, Megavideo, Megaclick, and Megarotic. When the police showed up for the bust, at his birthday party no less, he barricaded himself inside his mansion’s safe room with a sawed-off shotgun, which he had purchased for his family’s safety.

His English was undoubtedly good enough to pass; however, investor-category candidates only need an IELTS score of 4 out of 9 to gain residency.  It is clear that some immigrants are more equal than others, in a nation that trumpets its lack of corruption as a point of attraction.  Russian mining billionaire Abramov, incidentally also a citizen of Cyprus, and roughly a dozen others have become new residents under this category. Kim Dotcom is now out on bail, his order of arrest nullified and voided.

It turns out that John Banks, Auckland Mayor, is alleged to have given the German scofflaw unlicensed immigration advice.  But that was not the least of it. Current allegations under investigation suggest that Banks’ mayoral campaign received “donations” in two hefty $25,000 chunks from Dotcom that, along with gambling den Sky City’s, were listed as anonymous.  Although Banks has distanced himself from the issue, claiming faulty memory, it is clear there was schmoozing going on. Banks had attended parties at the Dotcom mansion, proposing toasts, and enjoyed personal helicopter taxi services.  ACT party leader Banks is small business and regulatory reform minister and an associate minister for the commerce and education portfolios.

What is unclear is where Kim received the inspiration for Welcome To The Good Life, on his first album Bailhouse Rock. The lyrics – “Sleep all day, party all night / have whatever you want, whenever you like” –suggest an esprit that Joe Blogs could never afford to embrace, even if he did like.