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Megaupload founder and workers appear in NZ court

THE founder and three employees of the Megaupload file-sharing website have appeared in court in New Zealand after being arrested in police raids.

New Zealand police also seized guns, artwork, more than €4.5m in cash and luxury cars valued at nearly €2.4m after serving 10 search warrants at several businesses and homes around the city of Auckland.

The Megaupload site was shut down on Thursday over US accusations that it facilitated millions of illegal downloads of films, music and other content, costing copyright holders at least £300 million in lost revenue.

With 150 million registered users, about 50 million hits daily and endorsements from music superstars, Megaupload.com was among the world's biggest file-sharing sites. Big enough, according to a US indictment, that it earned founder Kim Dotcom €25 million last year alone.

The company is based in Hong Kong and Dotcom was living in New Zealand, but some of the alleged pirated content was hosted on leased servers in Virginia, and that was enough for US prosecutors to act.

The four defendants stood together in an Auckland courtroom in the first stage of extradition proceedings that could last a year or more.

Dotcom's lawyer raised objections to a media request to take photographs and video, but then Dotcom spoke out from the dock saying he did not mind photos or video "because we have nothing to hide".

The judge granted the media access, and ruled that the four would remain in custody until a second hearing on Monday.

Dotcom, Megaupload's former chief executive and current chief innovation officer, is a resident of Hong Kong and New Zealand and a dual citizen of Finland and Germany who had his name changed legally. The 37-year-old was previously known as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor.

The other defendants are two German citizens and one Dutch citizen, and three other defendants - another German, a Slovakian and an Estonian - remain at large.

PA Media