Mona Dotcom lawyers up

Minter Ellison partner Mark Sandelin at a Melbourne Cup event in November 2012 (Norrie Montgomery/NBR People Scene)

Mona Dotcom is lawyering up. 

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts partner Mark Sandelin confirms to NBR that his is acting for Ms Dotcom.

According to Mr Sandelin's Minter Ellison bio, "He has a significant practice representing clients in relationship property disputes."

Simpson Grierson is Kim Dotcom's long-time legal advisor.

Mr Dotcom announced on Saturday night that the couple had split. They have five children; three of which Kim Dotcom brought to the marriage.

An unconfirmed Herald report says Ms Dotcom left the property without the children.

Mr Sandelin says he cannot comment on the custody situation at this time.

"I can confirm that Mr and Mrs Dotcom have separated," he told NBR in an email. "They are asking that their privacy be respected. They want to focus on looking after their children at this difficult time."

A brief reunification, of sorts, might take place later today. The couple are both due to testify in John Banks' electoral return trial today, one after the other. 

Potential Mega complications
A key complication for Kim Dotcom is that although he is founder of his main company, file sharing outfit Mega, shares are in the name of Mona Dotcom (via MD Corporate Trustee, in which she is the sole shareholder and director).

Mega CEO Stephen Hall tells NBR the split will not affect Mega's pending reverse listing on the NZX. Ms Dotcom has already signed approval documentation.

However, if Mr Dotcom had aspirations to be secure the Mega stake once his various legal issues had resolved, that might now be more difficult.

The couple's assets
The couple have been married for five years, and own a $4.3 million, 565sqm home that adjoins their $30 million rented mansion in Coatesville, north of Auckland. The home was under the $5 million/5 hectares of non-urban land threshold needed for Overseas Investment Office approval. February 1, 2012, the Official Assignee secured the property, saying the Dotcoms could live in the home, but not sell it.

Mr Dotcom had around $16 million in NZ assets seized and bank accounts holding around $US175 million frozen following his January 20 arrest on copyright violation, money laundering, racketeering and other charges brought by the US Department of Justice over Mr Dotcom's previous venture, Megaupload.. His extradition case is due to begin in July but has already been subject to numerous delays and Mr Dotcom's legal team is pushing for a further extension. Mona Dotcom is not one of the co-accused.

Even if he wins his extradition case and the DOJ drops its action, Mr Dotcom's fortune will still be in peril. In April, the MPAA (representiing the major Hollywood studios) and the RIAA (representing multinational record labels) both filed lawsuits. They allege Megaupload caused them to lose around $500 million.

On April 16, the Crown lost a bid to extend the NZ asset seizure, but appealed the decision with the $16 million of assets tied up in the interim.

Mr Dotcom is also making a bid to get around $US42 million unfrozen in Hong Kong, where he lived between 2003 and 2009 — and where he still controls the companies behind his music sharing site Baboom, which he says will launch later this year. 

Mr Dotcom founded the Internet Party this year. In March, Internet Party CEO Vikram Kumar told NBR that reports of a $2 million launch budget were accurate. Most of the money "Will come from Kim's family trust. All other sources are comparatively insignificant."

On Twitter, Mr Dotcom recently asked why "Immigration NZ is terminating the work visas of our nannies now? Because my lawyers seek discovery regarding my residency visa in court?" The High Court has allowed the Dotcoms a $60,000 a month living allowance. On social media, people have said Mr Dotcom, as a political aspirant and potential ally of the far-left Mana party, will find little empathy on the issue. Others have suggested he replace the four Filipinos with local hires.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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