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Dotcom claims he is broke, facing New Zealand jail

[WELLINGTON] Internet mogul Kim Dotcom, accused of pocketing more than US$175 million (S$227.5 million) from pirated copies of movies and other material, claimed Wednesday he was broke and facing jail in New Zealand.

In a live video link from his New Zealand mansion to the UnBound Digital conference in England, the German-born entrepreneur said he had no money left to defend himself at a bail hearing in Auckland on Thursday.

"I'm defenceless and they're using that opportunity to try and get my bail revoked and that's what I'm facing on Thursday," said Dotcom, who is fighting extradition to the United States where he is wanted on Internet piracy charges.

"This might be my last public appearance and if I go back to jail you can tell everybody that was the one." Dotcom, whose New Zealand lawyers recently quit, claimed he has spent US$10 million on legal costs since he was arrested in a dramatic police helicopter swoop on his mansion in January 2012.

"They have certainly managed to drain my resources," he said.

Dotcom's Megaupload operation, at the centre of the piracy accusations, has been shut down and he said shares in his new data storage company Mega were held in trust by his wife and children.

He and his wife separated earlier this year.

Dotcom, who was born Kim Schmitz, said he also regretted dabbling in politics when he invested several million dollars in a new political party which failed to win a seat in New Zealand's September general election.

"Before I started my political movement, I was quite popular in New Zealand. Everyone was cheering for me to win my case," he said.

"But after I got involved in politics and the prime minister and his party attacked me viciously, labelling me as a Nazi and saying I'm only going into politics to stop my extradition, well the New Zealand public heard that narrative and now I'm a pariah.

"The witch-hunt worked, everyone wants to see me burn, and on Thursday I might go to jail because of that." He also admitted his flamboyance made him an easy target.

"When you travel around on private jets and you go around with cars that have number plates saying 'God', 'Stoned' and 'Mafia' on them, it's probably not the best for keeping a low profile." The US Justice Department and FBI claim Megaupload and related sites netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds, and cost copyright owners more than US$500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.

AFP