Dotcom mansion: Everyone out, bar the fish
Electricity has been kept on to keep the 60 pet tropical fish alive under the Animal Welfare Act. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The Dotcom mansion is desolate and about to be abandoned – except for the fish.
The lease for the $30 million mansion expires on Wednesday. With Megaupload boss Kim Dotcom in jail and his fortune seized under an order from the US Government, there is no money left to pay the rent.
„We’re living on charity here,“ said security specialist Wayne Tempero last week.
A few people still live on site but they have no reason to stay, other than not having found new homes yet.
Many of those who lived there lost items of value when police swooped and took everything that looked worth seizing.
Three weeks on, they still don’t know how to get their belongings back. One staff member says he was told to „talk to the FBI“.
The 42 locals who worked there effectively became unemployed on January 20, the day of the raid. Their wages are unpaid as the money is in bank accounts seized on behalf of the US.
Many were forced to seek emergency benefits at Work and Income.
The park-like grounds show the effect of not being tended for weeks. The vegetable garden is burgeoning while hedges and trees have also grown in the wet summer warmth.
A neighbour over the back fence has offered to mow some of the shaggy-looking grass.
Others have dropped notes of support for Mona Dotcom, who, with the couple’s three children, has moved to a bungalow at the rear of the property. A visitor even delivered a food parcel for her. Mona, due to give birth to twins at the end of next month, was this weekend with advisers planning the couple’s next move.
The only residents left in the mansion are the tropical fish, cared for by Mark „The Fish Man“, who declined permission to use his surname.
Mark said Dotcom gave him „open slather to make and maintain the best fish tank in New Zealand – and we have“. The tank was already in the house, but the contents have been developed with Dotcom’s involvement.
He estimates the aquarium set-up to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Among the almost 60 fish are yellow tangs, blue damsals and percula clowns such as those depicted in the Pixar movie Nemo.
Mark has continued to return to the mansion to care for the fish. He has cleaned and fed them and looked after their welfare even though it is unlikely he will be paid for his work.
He said the empty mansion had led to concerns the power would be disconnected, which could lead to the death of the fish. He said they were pets covered by the Animal Welfare Act and the deaths could attract fines of up to $100,000 each.
„It could be up for $5 million or $6 million in fines. You can catch fish from the sea and kill them but these are pets.“
Like many at the property, Mark has found the past three weeks „unreal and disheartening“.
Kim Dotcom had spoken of buying a Lamborghini for the local community constable the day before he was arrested.
The internet tycoon had welcomed Orewa Senior Constable Jason Homan to his mansion north of Auckland to discuss security.
Dotcom was unaware the visit was being filmed to assist the assault team.
Staff have told the Herald on Sunday that Dotcom learned Homan had yet to receive a community constable’s car, typically sponsored. He was concerned the officer might not be able to reach the mansion in an emergency and discussed buying him a Lamborghini.
Dotcom had a Lamborghini among his fleet of luxury cars seized by police, acting on requests from the US.
NZ police in charge
The armed assault on the $30 million home of Kim Dotcom was a decision made by New Zealand Police, say United States authorities.
In the first comment since the surprise dawn assault, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office said its „law enforcement partners“ had control of the operation.
Criticism has been levelled at police over the helicopter assault by members of the Special Tactics Group. The style of the assault led to accusations the FBI had influenced the raid.
But the spokesman said Kiwi officers took „steps deemed necessary“ to keep officers safe and protect „potential“ evidence.
The spokesman said authorities hoped to turn Dotcom’s fortune and money in seized accounts over to „victims of crime“. In this case, that’s the music companies and Hollywood studios. „The indictment seeks forfeiture of $175 million, plus other assets and property associated with the alleged crimes.“
The spokesman said it was the „largest criminal copyright case“ ever brought by the US. The defendants have denied all charges.