How much does it cost to enjoy a reasonable standard of living in the modern world? A couple of thousand dollars a month? Three thousand? Four?
For Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, none of these amounts scratch the surface, a problematic situation considering all of his assets were previously seized by the U.S. and New Zealand governments.
In February a “broke” and “destitute” Dotcom appeared before Justice Patricia Courtney, asking for living expenses and a massive cash injection to pay historical and current legal fees. Dotcom was previously granted around US$15,000 per month to live on but high costs had left him “penniless”.
Following the hearing Justice Courtney’s ruling is largely good news for Dotcom, with the Judge taking into consideration claims by authorities that the entrepreneur has funds in a trust that could help pay his expenses.
“The trust’s major asset is its shareholding in Mega Ltd, said to be worth more than $30m (US$22.6m). In evidence Mr Dotcom said that there were difficulties in selling Mega shares because they were blocked from being sold until the planned listing of Mega, which is now scheduled for late May 2015 (though it is possible that this date will be pushed back). There was no evidence to the contrary,” the Judge’s ruling reads.
“I have concluded that Mr Dotcom does not have the ability to meet his legal and reasonable living expenses from trust assets because, on the evidence, those assets are not sufficiently liquid.”
Noting that he still owes former lawyers around US$1.5m, the Judge said that Dotcom’s estimate for financing his legal battle against extradition is between US$1.5m and US$3m. This amount will be released from currently restrained government bonds.
Next up was the Dotcom family’s accommodation costs. Rent on the now-famous mansion amounts to US$754,000 per annum under a lease Dotcom signed in February 2013 and which expires in the same month 2016. The Judge decided that terminating that lease would result in additional costs.
“If [Dotcom] were to terminate the lease in order to find a more modest home, he would immediately be exposed to a significant contractual liability for the existing rental in addition to the costs of any new accommodation,” the Judge writes.
“Little would be saved by requiring Mr Dotcom to move into more modest
accommodation pending the expiry of the lease; it is more likely that the total amount required to house Mr Dotcom and his children and meet his lease commitment would actually prove greater than simply remaining where he is.
“I therefore accept that, in the particular circumstances of this case, a figure of $80,000 (US$60,300) per month is reasonable for accommodation.”
The Judge also considered Dotcom’s claims for items like security, staff wages and other general expenses.
Dotcom currently has eight staff but the Judge felt that five would be sufficient to assist with cleaning, cooking, shopping, managing the grounds and caring for Dotcom’s children.
“I allow $25,000 ($18,850) per month for staff,” the Judge said.
Turning to Dotcom’s request for $20,000 (US$15,000) for groceries, fuel and maintenance etc, the Judge said this was a little high considering Dotcom’s estranged wife Mona could be expected to chip in.
“On the basis that the children’s mother can be expected to contribute to
some of these costs I consider that the figure of $20,000 (US$15,000) is a little high and would reduce that to $15,000 (US$11,300) per month,” the Judge added.
In addition to the legal fees mentioned earlier, in total Dotcom was awarded $170,000 (US$128,000) per month to cover living expenses.
“Mr Dotcom may have access to that figure each month pending the expiry of the lease on the property,” the Judge said. “At that point I would expect that the position will be reviewed.”