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September 21, 2017

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Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom launches New Zealand political party

WELLINGTON -- Internet tycoon Kim Dotcom, who is battling extradition to the United States, launched his own political party in New Zealand on Thursday campaigning for a "free and fair" society.

The flamboyant German-born founder of the Megaupload file-sharing site claimed his Internet Party would "play an important role" in the general election scheduled for September.

"This is a movement for the freedom of the Internet and technology, for privacy and political reform," said the 40-year-old, who is wanted in the United States to face online piracy charges.

U.S. prosecutors say his now-defunct Megaupload sites netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright-owners more than US$500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.

The entrepreneur, who denies any wrongdoing and is free on bail, said his party was for "people who haven't voted before, who have been disappointed by voting, or who don't like the political choices on offer."

But the party launch had to compete with news coverage of revelations that Dotcom, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz, owned a signed copy of Adolf Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle).

Dotcom denied claims it made him a Nazi sympathizer and said he owned other World War II memorabilia including a cigar holder that once belonged to Britain's Winston Churchill and a pen that belonged to Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

He linked publicity about the book to a "disgusting smear campaign" by New Zealand's ruling National Party.

Dotcom is a former computer hacker with a reputation for a colorful lifestyle. Police seized artworks and luxury cars, including a pink Cadillac, from his sprawling Auckland mansion when he was arrested in 2012.

Dotcom said his party was "a breath of fresh air, and a dose of common sense, for a tired and adversarial political system that has lost touch with modern New Zealand and the Internet generation."

The party's guiding principles include "the delivery of faster, cheaper Internet to all New Zealanders, the creation of high-tech jobs, the protection of privacy and the safeguarding of New Zealand's independence," Dotcom said.

But doubts have arisen over his initial plans to seek a way into parliament by aligning with an existing party, under New Zealand's proportional voting system.

His most likely ally, the one-seat Mana Party, issued a statement this week listing several reasons why a campaign arrangement was not likely.

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