MegaUpload founder Kim Schmitz has been denied bail, and will now stay in custody in New Zealand until at least 22 Feb as the US authorities go through the motions of extraditing him.
As previously reported, after his arrest last week in New Zealand in relation to various allegations made against him by the US in regards to the Mega business empire, Schmitz’s lawyers applied for bail, claiming their client had so far complied with the authorities, that his passport had been seized and bank accounts frozen, and that his distinctive appearance (ie size) would make it hard for him to sneak past customs. But prosecutors said Schmitz had a history of evading criminal charges, adding that they feared he may have passports and bank accounts the US authorities have not yet seized, which could aid his escape from the criminal justice system.
The judge hearing the bail application, David McNaughton, initially told the court he needed more time to consider Schmitz’s case, which he said was particularly complicated. But yesterday the judge sided with the prosecution, saying that “with sufficient determination and financial resources, flight risk remains a real and significant possibility which I cannot discount and bail is declined”.
McNaughton added that the presence of unlicensed firearms at the property where Schmitz was staying suggested criminal connections, who could possibly aid an escape from the country, and that Schmitz would be highly motivated to attempt a return to his home country of Germany, because it would be much harder for America to extradite him from there – the Germans, as a general rule, will resist any efforts to force them to hand over one of their own citizens to a foreign criminal justice system.
Schmitz’s lawyer immediately announced his intent to appeal the decision. The Mega man’s legal reps also re-stated that their client is innocent of all the charges made against him by the US authorities – of commercial copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering – while also claiming Schmitz was in ill health, suffering from diabetes, hypertension and a slipped disc.
The other three Mega associates arrested in New Zealand last week were also remanded in custody, with each requesting separate hearings to present arguments in favour of bail.