Getting ahead of ourselves

Kirsty Johnston at Stuff reports:

The men’s hearing comes as Opposition politicians call for accountability into Dotcom’s status as a resident.

Although the overweight, flamboyant former hacker – who legally changed his name to Dotcom from Shmitz – had convictions from his native Germany, he was able to settle in Auckland after investing $10 million in New Zealand government bonds in 2010.

Those bonds are now part of the assets frozen by authorities investigating the charges against Megaupload – which include racketeering, money laundering and infringements.

NZ First leader Winston Peters called for the prime minister to set up an immediate inquiry into how Dotcom was allowed to stay permanently in Auckland, where he lived in a $30 million mansion belonging to the Chrisco enterprise founders.

“It has been reported that Dotcom is known in Germany as a notorious computer hacker and has been convicted of insider trading, yet immigration authorities let him settle here under the so-called investor-plus category. The prime minister should order an immediate inquiry … to see who was involved in this immigration scandal and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Labour immigration spokeswoman Darien Fenton said that before there was an inquiry, it should be asked whose responsibility it was to allow the discretion to overlook his convictions.

The “investor-plus” category Dotcom’s residency fell into needed to be looked at to ensure others of “dubious” character were not also able to bypass the good character test, she said.

In a statement, the Immigration Service said that “Mr Dotcom made full disclosure of his previous convictions and they were taken into account in the granting of his residence. The Immigration Act allows for discretion to be exercised in certain cases. In this particular case, Immigration NZ weighed the character issue and any associated risk to New Zealand against potential benefits to New Zealand”.

Calling for an inquiry into why he had been granted residency before he has even had a trial, is a rather bad case of the horse before the cart.

Certainly based on what has been reported to date, I have a pretty negative impression of Mr Dotcom. And in fact in several media interviews have said that at this stage the copyright holders have acted appropriately in complaining to the authorities, and the authorities laying charges if they have a good faith belief laws have been broken.

This is very different to demanding that new laws be instituted so that people may lose their Internet access on the basis of accusation, or in the case of SOPA that ISPs be forced to block websites based on accusations. These damage the Internet terribly.

But having said that my initial impression of Dotcom is negative, he has yet to have his extradition hearing let alone have his day in court. Only if he is found guilty of breaking the law, would you then expect there to be (quite legitimate) questions about the process and decision making around his residency approval.

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