A New Zealand court has denied bail to Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, whose extradition is being sought by the US Department of Justice.
US authorities shut down Megaupload last week, accusing Dotcom and six others of operating an "international organized criminal enterprise responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of copyrighted works," CNN reported.
They estimate the illegal downloads of films, music and other content cost copyright holders at least $500 million in lost revenue, according to the Associated Press.
Dotcom, 38, also known as Kim Schmitz, and three others, were arrested on Friday after a police raid at his rented country estate, reputedly New Zealand's most expensive home, at the request of the FBI.
A fifth suspect has since been arrested in the Netherlands, the AP reported, while two remain at large.
Dotcom will remain in custody until at least Feb. 22, when an extradition hearing is to be held.
Judge David McNaughton said it was a "real and significant possibility" that Dotcom, a German national and New Zealand resident, would flee New Zealand if granted bail, according to the Australian Associated Press.
McNaughton said a loaded modified pistol found in a safe at the estate suggested a "level of criminality which could easily extend to exploiting criminal connections to obtain travel documents and leave the country undetected."
Dotcom would appeal the decision, AAP reported, quoting his lawyer, Paul Davison QC, as saying outside court that:
"All of his assets have been frozen, all of his resources have been taken. He's living here with his wife and family. He has no intention whatsoever of endeavoring to leave New Zealand."
Megaupload, before it was taken down, was ranked by the traffic-tracking service Alexa as the world's 72nd-most-visited website.
US authorities say the operation had generated more than $175 million in illegal profits through advertising revenue and the sale of premium memberships.
According to Reuters:
A 1970 extradition treaty between the US and New Zealand gives the US 45 days from the time of Dotcom's arrest to request extradition. The New Zealand Extradition Act, passed in 1999, gives the US preferential status to access a streamlined process for making its request.