Two MegaUpload Ops Bailed, But Government Wants Surveillance

While MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom will remain in custody for at least another month, two indicted members of the so-called "Mega Conspiracy" were granted bail this morning. Their privacy, however, will have to wait. On top of the revelation that the FBI monitored Skype calls as far back as 2007, officials are now assessing whether the defendant's homes are suitable for "electronic monitoring".

Yesterday morning, Kim Dotcom had his application for bail denied at the North Shore District Court in New Zealand.

Judge David McNaughton said that the scale of the charges against the MegaUpload founder combined with his significant resources meant that there was a significant risk he could flee, possibly to his birthplace, Germany.

In a later hearing at the same location, lawyer Guy Foley argued that Dotcom’s alleged co-conspirators – Bram van der Kolk, 29, Finn Batato, 38, and Mathias Ortmann, 40 – are of good character and deserved bail.

This morning Judge McNaughton handed down his decision. He granted bail to both Dutch national Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato from Germany, but denied bail to Ortmann due to financial concerns.

According to Stuff, the FBI’s records show that Ortmann made around $14.5 million from the company between 2005 and 2010, and an additional $3 million in 2011. His accounts, however, show $20.2 million, some $3.5 million more. Ortmann’s lawyer has until tomorrow to come up with an explanation.

Yesterday, Guy Foley described programmer and networking expert Bram van der Kolk as a family man and today his wife Asia expressed relief that he would be coming home.

“I’m just glad my husband is going to be able to play with our baby again,” she said.

Although the Judge granted the pair bail, he ordered them detained for a further week so that their homes could be assessed for surveillance equipment suitability. It’s becoming ever more clear that being monitored is nothing new for these MegaUpload employees.

The US Department of Justice’s indictment showed that the operators of MegaUpload had been subjected to monitoring over the past several years, but a piece of evidence presented in court yesterday revealed not only how far back, but just how deep that surveillance went.

Documents produced by the FBI reportedly show the details of a 2007 Skype conversation between Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann where they mulled a situation where Kim Dotcom might run off with “the money”.

Although no context was provided by the FBI, Van der Kolk allegedly described the situation with Dotcom more than 4 years ago as “a bit risky” but with Ortmann offering assurances that since Dotcom was “operationally dependent” on the pair he could not “sneak away with the money.”

“What if the shit really hits the fan? Would he take the last little bit of money and take off? He’s good at that,” Van der Kolk replied.

“True,” said Ortmann, “But with his spending nowadays he will attempt to get the shit off the fan, and that’s what he needs us for.”

Dotcom will remain in custody until at least 22nd February.

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