, WELLINGTON, Jul 6 – Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has taken to Twitter as a self-styled “freedom fighter” as he waits to find out if the United States can extradite him from New Zealand to face online piracy charges.
The German national has amassed more than 56,000 followers in less than three weeks since he began tweeting on June 19, which he gleefully pointed out Friday exceeded New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s 52,500 following.
“Next stop @BarackObama,” he joked, setting his sights on matching the US president’s 17.2 million followers on the micro-blogging website.
Dotcom is free on bail after armed New Zealand police, cooperating with a US investigation, arrested him at his sprawling Auckland mansion in January — a raid a High Court judge later ruled illegal.
US authorities allege Megaupload and related file-sharing websites netted more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners more than $500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.
Dotcom denies any wrongdoing in a case US prosecutors have described as the world’s largest copyright action.
His Twitter profile @KimDotcom makes clear how he sees himself: “Founder of Megaupload and Freedom Fighter”.
“They picked the wrong guy,” one tweet read. Another said authorities had “declared war” on Megaupload, the Internet and innovation.
“It’s time to fight back. Let’s all unite and show them,” he added.
Dotcom, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz, has also poked fun at the racketeering and money laundering charges he faces, which could see him jailed for up to 20 years if convicted in a US court.
He posted a photo with the title “flight risk!!!!” showing the portly businessman waving his arms on the mansion lawn, mocking prosecution arguments he would flee New Zealand if released on bail, after spending a month in jail following his arrest.
Another photo showed co-accused Megaupload executive Mathias Ortmann washing bank notes in a suds-filled tub, a reference to the money laundering charges.
Dotcom last month tweeted his delight at making a Reader’s Digest list of the 100 most trusted people in New Zealand, and the High Court ruling that declared the raid on his home illegal.
He has also railed against prosecutors for freezing his assets, revealing the emotional toll the charges have taken on him.
“No funds for lawyers. No justice for Mega users. Dirty prosecution tactics. It’s BAD,” said one tweet. In another he declared: “I’m learning who my friends are, how much pain I can take and how inhumane the world outside can be.”
Dotcom’s extradition hearing is scheduled for August 6 in Auckland. Before then, a US court will hear a motion from his lawyers on July 27 to dismiss all charges.