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He wanted Wired to write a nice story about him, so he manipulated its writer by providing exclusive access, and even a few tears, in hopes of a puff piece. His bed of choice is a remarkable piece of custom Swedish craftsmanship made by a company called Hastens.
Across an ocean, hours before Operation Takedown began, the US Department of Justice had already tipped off a select group of journalists about the raid’s planned highlights.
And harbor home to the villain: Kim Dotcom, ne Kim Schmitz, aka Tim Vestor, Kim Tim Jim Vestor, Kimble, and Dr. Kim, they say, was like Jabba the Hutt, running a bazaar of copyright criminality with impunity from his Kiwi Tatooine. The DOJ maintains that the legitimate storage business was only a front, like a Mafia pork store; the real money was made out back, where Megaupload was a mega-swapmeet for some $500 million worth of pirated material, including movies, TV shows, music, books, videogames, and software. Operation Takedown was carried out by armed New Zealand special police and monitored by the FBI via video link.
We read that police were forced to cut their way into Dotcom’s panic room, where they found him cowering near a sawed-off shotgun. This was justice on an epically entertaining scale, topped by a final cherry of schadenfreude: the rich fat bad man humbled and humiliated, the boastful pirate king brought down.
Kim Dotcom’s head of security is waiting for me at the Auckland airport on a gray day last July.
The Dotcom Mansion is impossible to miss, mostly because of the chromed industrial-park letters spelling out dotcom mansion across the gatehouse in blue backlighting. Until just two months ago, Kim couldn’t live in his own home, as a condition of his house arrest following a month of jail time. Kim has surrounded himself with luxury, but what he prizes above all other indulgences is pure, deep sleep. I find Kim behind the wheel of his golf cart, layered in his usual uniform of black vest over diaphanous black shirt and three-quarter-length pants, a black scarf and heavy black leather ball cap. I follow along the limestone trail to what Kim calls his hill, where he can soak in a few minutes of precious winter sun. At this time of year Kim and family would usually be based out of their floor-wide residence in the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, or on a rented yacht off the shores of Monaco or St.
Kiwis still recall with pride their government barring American nuclear-powered warships from their harbors. In recent weeks, New Zealand Crown judges have pushed back against the DOJ, ruling that the search warrant on Kim and the removal of his personal hard drives under the guidance of the FBI were illegal. First Bram van der Kolk, who oversaw programming for the Mega websites and at 30 looks something like a Dutch Matt Damon.
Ortmann just looks back at his screen, setting up a Skype call with his girlfriend back home in Germany. At this point, all that stands between them and their fate are legal teams and Kim himself. Lately the news has been about donations Dotcom made to a New Zealand parliamentarian named John Banks—the deciding vote in the prime minister’s majority. Social media is new for Kim, but he already has more than 130,000 followers on Twitter and after only a few days has reached Facebook’s 5,000-friend limit.
The law addressing this balance between the rights of copyright holders and Internet service providers was signed by President Clinton in 1998. The act was tested in June of 2010, when a US district court ruled that YouTube was protected by safe harbor against a $1 billion suit by Viacom; Google employees simply could not be expected to make tough, and often impossible, calls as to which clips of, say, Jersey Shore, had been uploaded without permission. Dotcom does have several criminal convictions in Germany, a history of working at the edges of the technologically possible and legally permissible, and a bad-boy reputation. Growing up in the northern German city of Kiel with his mother and alcoholic father, Kim was in trouble before he even discovered computers. The kid who emerged from this childhood was smart and willful, unafraid of adults and unimpressed with their authority.
He was around 11 when he saw his first Commodore C-16 in a shop window, running a demo of some pixelated game. One of the recurring hacks was a backdoor attack on corporate PBX systems—a company’s internal phone and data exchange. Most of the early PBXs were across the ocean, in Manhattan’s 212 area code, and required an expensive long-distance call. He loved crawling through a new company’s data, paying special attention to outgoing modem calls, which would lead him to even more PBXs.
The scam that got him arrested focused on the pay-by-the-minute phone chat lines popular in the early ’90s.
He partnered with fellow hacker and coding genius Mathias Ortmann to form Data Protect, one of the world’s first whitehat consultancies, charging hundreds of dollars an hour to tell businesses how to protect against people like themselves. The German media quickly discovered the teenage wunderkind, and Kim discovered he enjoyed the spotlight. By 1997 Kim took it upon himself to make his own headlines, launching a website about his life and philosophy.
A decade before Facebook made online oversharing the norm, Kim used Kimble .org to showcase his life. By 2000, Kim had sold most of his stake in Data Protect and started a private capital investment fund.
German television replayed the images of the rich young troublemaker talking smack from a luxury suite in Thailand, acting like he was beyond the reach of German laws. This was big news in Germany—the biggest insider trader in history, accused of violating a law that was only a few years old. Kim was considered a flight risk and spent five months in jail before being offered probation and a small fine if he’d plead guilty. There is only one area in which Kim embraces an illicit identity: He has a rabid need for speed.
Kim and his new partner, Bram van der Kolk, drummed up interest by sending out videos of Kim’s racing exploits, often by email. At first Kim used Megaupload to generate buzz around the Ultimate Rally, offering $5,000 for the best street-racing videos.
Megaupload users had quickly graduated from sharing racing videos to sharing everything else—including porn and copyright-infringing material. Kim says they did their best to comply with the law, better than most, even putting the power to take infringing material off their servers directly into the hands of the studios themselves. Certainly the Megaupload technology itself wasn’t criminal—depending on how it was used, the service had the power to connect pirates with illegal downloaders or major artists directly with a major audience.
On January 5, 2012, a federal grand jury filed its sealed 72-page indictment of Megaupload, based on a two-year FBI-led investigation. By January 18, two American special agents and an assistant US attorney were in New Zealand. The morning of the raid, Kim heard the noises and, remembering Tempero’s security protocol, reached for the panic button at the side of his work bed. The kitchen is the one area in the home where there never seems to be enough storage space and work surfaces. Of course, the size, shape and style of an island is your personal preference, but keeping these general things in mind when you're shopping will help you better decide on one that works in your kitchen.
With a stainless-steel top and a solid acacia wood base, this island also works as a dining table. Each one takes some 160 hours to produce and is signed by a master bed-maker who lays out the most perfect matrix of horsehair, cotton, flax, and wool.
They finished around 4:30 am, and Kim slid into the backseat of his Mercedes S-Class for the ride back to his mansion. Kim couldn’t tell—the cavernous stone labyrinth of rooms swallowed and scattered sound, and the thick velvet blackout curtains blocked out everything else.
It was heavy hardwood several inches thick, secured by stout metal bolts in the stone casement.


If you know nothing else about Kim Dotcom, about the federal case against him and his former online business, Megaupload, you’ve probably heard about the raid. Megaupload was a free online storage locker, a cloud warehouse for files too bulky for email. Kim, they contend, was the Jabba the Hutt-like presence running this grand bazaar of copyright criminality with impunity from his Kiwi Tatooine, protected by laser break beams and guards and guns, CCTV and infrared and even escape pods—including a helicopter and high-performance sports cars. Descriptions of the raid varied from one news outlet to another, but most included the cops’ dramatic helicopter arrival on the expansive Dotcom Mansion lawn and their struggles with a security system fit for a Mafia don. That same day, similar raids were under way in eight other countries where Megaupload had servers or offices.
He was cuffed and put in jail, his booty seized, his business scuttled upon the reefs of anti-racketeering laws. Not the Lamborghini or pink Series 62 Cadillac or any of the three retrofitted Mercedes CLK DTMs with extra-wide seats—the cops had impounded those.
For three months he was confined to the guesthouse, a prison of black lacquer and black leather, black Versace tables and wall-sized LCD flatscreens. In a few days he will be in court for a much-expected showdown with prosecutors about the excesses of the raid on his home.
Kim is not a New Zealand citizen, but many here took the FBI-instigated raid on his home quite personally, as a COPS-style American invasion. Still, the jeopardy is daunting—up to 55 years in jail for alleged crimes including conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, money laundering, and racketeering.
Instead he is stuck in winter, facing jail, borrowing cigarette money, and living with van der Kolk.
The guys watch him as the dying sun signals the end of another day in their life in this island paradise.
Sure, the DOJ case cites a handful of seized emails that sound damning, but it was Kim who got them here.
The men file back down the hill to the warmth of Kim’s house-sized kitchen beside a 16-foot saltwater fish tank. Kim and his associates are convinced that their company was targeted by the Obama administration for political rather than legal reasons. But by making ignorance of its own business a cloud storage provider’s only defense, the law created a brand-new gray area, leaving in place an Internet where piracy was blatant big business.
In fact, the indictment claims, Megaupload’s generals engaged in illegal file-sharing themselves, encouraged it with an incentive program that paid cash for popular content, and were slow and selective in complying with takedown notices, only pulling infringing content and dropping the incentive program when the company was at the peak of its power.
Not for the first time, Kim finds himself embroiled in a criminal case based on uncertain tech precedent. What’s less clear is whether this patchwork description makes Dotcom a Don Corleone or a Da Vinci.
He didn’t have much interest in their schools either, the arbitrary courses or the magic supposedly conferred by a degree. Luckily Kim had access to a hacker BBS forum for exchanging stolen calling-card numbers too. These were the German equivalent of 1-900 party lines that the phone company charged as a long-distance call, usually at around $1.20 a minute. Videos from the time show an outrageous Kim, often in the company of scantily clad women and sometimes sporting a replica Nazi helmet and the trophy.
He’d host it somewhere like North Korea and attract professional drivers from Formula One with a million dollars cash awaiting the winner. The last time he’d seen the man, he was being interviewed by a German television station. How stupid and inefficient to be Kim Schmitz of Megaupload whom you could find online at Kimble.org—what a mouthful, what a bulging pocket of tiny keys. Kim says they realized early on that their service was being used that way and looked at what they needed to do to deal with it.
A few days later, members of the FBI contacted officers from the New Zealand fraud and antiterror forces and began planning what they then called Operation Debut. On the 19th, a local constable was sent into the Dotcom Mansion with a camera pen to secretly record the layout and security features. Robbery, gang attack, and kidnapping were always within the range of possibility for Kim’s family. It looked like a Jeopardy buzzer in black lacquer, protected from accidental activation by a clear, hinged safety.
If you already have a dining table and will be using a kitchen island primarily for food preparation, find an island that's topped with a butcher block. Drop-leaf refers to a table top that has ends which can be folded down and pulled up when needed.
People often think of islands as fixed stations in the kitchen, but one of the biggest advantages of a freestanding piece is that it can be moved around if really needed. Although islands with open-tiered shelves provide easy access to pots and pans stored on them from all sides, they do have a tendency to look cluttered and collect dust. Kim walked to his upstairs chambers, showered and changed into his customary all-black sleeping costume, grabbed his customary chilled Fiji water from the upstairs fridge, and settled before the monitors of his work bed.
It’s the Canada of Australia, Wales in a Hawaiian shirt, a Xanadu habitat for Hobbit and emu. A classic comic book baddie millionaire, an ex-con expatriate German ex-hacker lording over his own personal Pirate Bay just 30 minutes north of Auckland. It generated an estimated $25 million a year in revenue from ads and brought in another $150 million through its paid, faster, unlimited Premium service.
The FBI also believed Kim possessed a special portable device that would wipe his servers all across the globe, destroying the evidence. If all went as planned, he and his six generals would be extradited to the US to face a Virginia judge and up to 55 years each in prison. Amid the limo drivers and families with Mylar balloons is one deadly serious shave-headed New Zealander with a lantern jaw—a tattooed wall of muscle wearing a tight black hoodie. The limestone drive winds up to a $24 million suburban castle with ponds, a tennis court, several pools, a Vegas-style stairstep fountain, and a hedgerow labyrinth.
The walls are adorned with poster-sized photographs of Kim and his beautiful 24-year-old wife, Mona, but mostly just Kim: Kim in front of a helicopter, Kim on the bow of a luxury yacht, Kim reeling in a great fish or in front of a European castle holding a shotgun and a limp duck, or straddling a mountaintop, eyes pinned on the distant future.
Other messages in the stream address Julian Assange or Internet freedoms or the tyranny of the FBI. The raid has enforced a Hotel California-style house arrest: stuck in a mansion on an island paradise, but still stuck.
Batato is a 39-year-old half-Palestinian, half-German from Munich, a mellow chain-smoking playboy with a taste for wine and watches.
Dotcom has compared himself to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Julian Assange, and Martin Luther King Jr. So, while 28 lawyers for Megaupload fight those charges around the world, Kim is taking on the Obama administration as well. The world still hadn’t worked out how to have data storage that was both private and policed. Megaupload counters that policing the billions of files on its service would be both impossible and a violation of their customers’ privacy, that they did their best to comply with takedown notices as the law required, and that they had reasonable expectations of the same DMCA safe harbor afforded to YouTube. It sat on his desk, a puzzle asking for his solution in BASIC, interesting in a way school never could be. The operator of the line received a percentage from the local telecom, about 15 cents a minute per caller; the more callers, the more money the party line owner made. He felt powerful and reckless and was being told he was smarter than the rest of the world.
Kim liked that his real name was inside it, and he identified with the movie about a good guy misunderstood and persecuted. The photos and videos, the posing and bragging and clowning—these were a clarion call for nerd confidence, an enticement to take a risk and achieve. Kim invested in shares of the company, believing that he could simplify its interface and make it a success.


Driving is his vice, an addiction to the rush of velocity and control of a graceful machine. Kim said he chose New Zealand because it was clean and green and the most likely to survive an uncertain future. It was all leading up to the launch of a service called Megabox, which would allow musical artists to make money from ads attached to free downloads of their songs.
The next day, two sections of New Zealand’s Special Tactics Group and four sections of the elite antiterror Armed Offenders Squad were mobilized to Coatesville.
Ahead lay a supersized bathroom and the blue-lit atrium of a one-lane, 30-meter swimming pool.
Shown here with a pewter stack, it adds an opulent accent to any home's culinary setting.Few patterns have permeated through the boundaries of time, language, and style with the determination of the distinguishable acanthus.
The more versatile (and less pricey) option is a freestanding island, which provides the extra work surface and storage needed but is available in many different sizes. Wheels help make this easier, and it's a convenient addition for islands that are used in smaller spaces, especially. But the big plus with open shelving islands is that they don't have doors that might interfere with foot traffic, making them ideal for smaller kitchens.
Like any pirate, the only freedoms he really cares about are the ones he can exploit to make himself rich. Kim has three such beds in his New Zealand mansion, one of which faces a series of monitors and hard drives and piles of wires and is flanked on either side by lamps that look like, and may well be, chromed AK-47s. He didn’t bother with details, he had a staff for that, but he did know that VIPs from the entertainment world were expected in from LA in celebration of his 38th birthday. Closed-circuit cameras take in every angle from stations in the trees and rooftops, sending flickering images to the panels monitored by the skeleton staff still manning the distant guardhouses. But so far, the US Department of Justice has refused to allow them to use frozen Megaupload assets to relocate to the US and to pay lawyers. Two now arrive atop Kim’s hill in golf carts, young men in jeans and untucked oxford shirts. Megaupload server logs show addresses that trace back to Fortune 100 companies and governments around the world. It’s not clear that a criminal statute against second-party copyright violation even exists.
He was in his early twenties and getting paid, buying expensive custom cars and fine suits, renting yachts, throwing money around nightclubs, swaggering. He never would have seen it if he was still in Germany, if his old business hadn’t been destroyed. It was an ideal place from which to run a legal and successful Internet company with more than 100 employees.
Free downloads with permission wasn’t piracy, it was a new media model that would kill the incentive for most illegal downloaders and get everyone paid. The Wolfang design set pays tribute to the ancient acanthus and takes it to the present with clean and defined lines.
In smaller kitchens, you can keep the leaves down during the everyday and pull them up for an expanded table top when you need more surface area for entertaining. On the other hand, islands with cupboards are generally a little pricier but they're great for hiding clutter.
His Megaupload enterprise willfully made hundreds of millions of dollars off stolen movies, songs, videogames, books, and software. Now Kim heard other noises, shouts and bangs and the unmistakable stomping of boots on stairs. Look upon these works, ye BitTorrenters of Dark Knight trilogies, sneak thieves of 50 Cent, and despair in your pirate bays.
He specializes in military hand-to-hand combat and looks like a very nice person who’d be very handy with a knife.
In fact, everyone in Kim’s entourage assumes everything is monitored, including all their communications.
Dotcom—or the iconic character of Dotcom—is everywhere here, but most of the 53 members of the household staff that once maintained the larger estate are gone with his seized fortune. My suspicion of surveillance by the FBI or New Zealand antiterror forces—or perhaps even by the millionaire former hacker himself—prevents me from logging onto Kim’s wireless network or even making a phone call.
He’s not being extradited to a place where jailers mark day from night with a light switch.
Ortmann is a 40-year-old German ex-hacker and looks like it, with a dark V-neck over his thin frame and square glasses. The rest of the men stare silently into their iPhones, studying news blogs for hints of their fate. It’s also obvious that Megaupload was one of many Internet sites that stored, and profited from, copyright-infringing material. Kim bought himself a 2400-baud modem, the kind where you stick a phone handset into a rubber coupler.
Then he generated massive caller traffic using stolen calling-card numbers from the hacker bulletin boards. His style is described by some as fearless, by others as reckless, and by all his competitors as truly good. And, if the island comes with drawers and cabinets, make sure there's enough room around to pull them open.
However, butcher blocks do require maintenance and need to be regularly resealed with mineral oil once every several weeks -- this keeps the wood from warping and cracking. But while the leaves are convenient in adding tabletop space, they don't provide the most stable surface for prepping food, so it's best to keep the chopping and dough-kneading to the center part of the island.
However, as mentioned earlier, just be sure it's positioned with enough room for doors to open without trouble. His company Megaupload was a legitimate data-storage business used by hundreds of millions of individuals and by employees of NASA, US Central Command, even the FBI.
It was here that he returned in the early morning of January 20, 2012, after a long night spent on his music album, one of his many side projects.
A moment later the helicopter theory was confirmed by the sound of rocks from the limestone drive raining against the windows.
We watched him drive his nitrox-fueled Mega Mercedes in road rallies and on golf courses, throwing fake gang signs at rap moguls and porn stars, making it rain with $175 million in illicit dotcom booty. Tempero is the one facing gun charges after the raid—the shotguns were registered in his name—and he doesn’t need any more problems with the police.
The only question is whether Kim and company bear criminal responsibility for that duality. If you're looking for a heavy-duty workspace, sleek stainless steel is heat-resistant and more durable than a wood top, but just remember that it's not a cutting surface so you'll always need to use a chopping board.
And for those looking for an island that can also serve as a bar surface, consider a bar cart, which often comes with a caddy to hold bottles and keep them from toppling over. For smaller kitchens where the island will do double-duty as a dining surface, go with a varnished wood top.
He’d been told not to land too near—the thought was interrupted by a boom, echoing and close. It will give you the look and feel of a dining table but will also provide a sturdy work surface -- just remember that you can't chop food directly on top of it.
In his sleeping chamber there are no electronic things, no humming or beeping devices, no leaking of LED, no sigh of capacitor or fan. For sleep of the finest quality, for epicurean, luxury slumber, total silence is required and enforced.



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