'A family man who gives to charity'
A Hong Kong photographer who worked for Kim Dotcom, the millionaire accused of major copyright crimes by the FBI, has described the founder of Megaupload as a devoted family man who simply wanted to keep a low profile.
Fashion photographer Olaf Mueller, 31, first met the German-born Dotcom in 2007 after an odd e-mail landed in his inbox.
'He inquired from a weird e-mail so I thought it was spam. Then my assistant said it's some rich guy who wants to have his picture taken with his wife,' Mueller said. 'He's a huge guy. He's definitely not shy, very confident and very sarcastic.'
Dotcom, who changed his name from Kim Schmitz, is currently in custody in New Zealand after he lost his appeal to be released on bail last week. In court, Dotcom said he was not a flight risk and simply wanted to be with his three young children and wife, who is due to give birth to twins in April.
The 38-year-old, who founded file-sharing sites that allowed users to download content, was arrested last month after police raided his home in Auckland.
The FBI have accused Dotcom of being the mastermind behind one of the biggest copyright breaches in US history and are seeking his extradition.
When Mueller took pre-wedding photos in 2007 of Dotcom and his wife Mona, a former model from the Philippines, he had to relinquish all copyright for the pictures.
'He made sure he owned the copyright, which was okay for me because I just charged accordingly,' Mueller said. His rates for Dotcom ranged from HK$150,000 to HK$250,000 per session.
The wedding photos were taken at Mueller's studio, which was in Kwun Tong at the time, because Dotcom wanted to keep things private.
After the wedding portraits, Dotcom asked Mueller to take family photos. At the time, Dotcom had two children and his wife was pregnant with their third child.
Mueller also took interior shots of Dotcom's home, which was a luxury suite at the five-star Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai, taking up an entire floor.
'It was quite homey and very tasteful,' Mueller said.
At one point, Dotcom, who split his time between Hong Kong and New Zealand, offered to fly Mueller to Auckland to take photos of his mansion but this job never happened.
Dotcom was also a fan of Mueller's art photography, bidding HK$150,000 at a charity auction in 2010 for a large artwork that featured Hong Kong-based celebrity model Jocelyn Luko.
'I showed it to him before the auction and he really loved it. He also liked the idea that it was for charity,' Mueller said.
Dotcom told the photographer that he already had a spot in his New Zealand home to hang the artwork, which was called In High Spirits.
Last month, the work was seized by authorities along with bank accounts and luxury cars worth millions. Dotcom will remain in custody until February 22 when US authorities are expected to file extradition papers.