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Timeline: Megaupload founder and suspected online pirate enters politics

AUCKLAND (Reuters) - Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, facing extradition from New Zealand to the United States to face online piracy charges, is cast variously as commercial visionary, digital martyr, online freedom campaigner, swindler and thief.

Below is a timeline of events involving the internet tycoon from his arrest in 2012.

January 2012 - Around 70 New Zealand police, some armed, raid Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's mansion outside Auckland, acting on a request from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Dotcom and his colleagues Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk are served extradition and search warrants, arrested, and taken into custody. As operators of the website, they are charged with online piracy, fraud and money laundering, and their computers and files are seized. Megaupload is closed down. The raid occurs on the same day U.S. lawmakers axe anti-piracy legislation following heavy public opposition.

February 2012 - Dotcom is released on bail while he awaits a hearing to fight against extradition to the United States, but his movements are restricted and he is prohibited from leaving New Zealand. His bail conditions are eventually relaxed to allow him free movement within the country, while the millionaire is given some access to his frozen funds to pay his legal team and living costs.

September 2012 - New Zealand's prime minister admits that the country's spy agency illegally carried out surveillance on Dotcom, a resident of the country, despite a law which prohibits monitoring citizens and residents.

January 2013 - Dotcom launches a new online file storage site, Mega.co.nz, whose encryption system is designed to offer water-tight privacy protection of user files.

March 2013 - A New Zealand court rules that Dotcom has the right to sue the government spy agency for illegal surveillance.

January 2014 - Dotcom soft launches online music service Baboom, which enables artists to sell songs directly to fans while keeping the bulk of the proceeds. So far, the site features one album, Dotcom's "Good Times". An official launch is planned for later this year.

February 2014 - After a series of appeals, a New Zealand court rules that the search warrant used in Dotcom's arrest was legal. The ruling benefits U.S. prosecutors in their attempt to extradite Dotcom and his colleagues, while posing a possible obstacle to Dotcom's damages suit. Dotcom's lawyers say they will appeal.

March 2014 - Dealing another blow to Dotcom's defense, the Supreme Court rules that U.S. prosecutors are not required to disclose evidence at Dotcom's extradition hearing, scheduled for July after a number of postponements.

Dotcom's online file storage site Mega Ltd announces it is planning a $180 million listing on New Zealand's stock exchange through a reverse takeover of a local investment shell company. "Indicted. Raided. On Bail. All assets frozen without trial. But we don't cry ourselves to sleep. We built #Mega from 0 into a $210m company," he tweets.

Dotcom launches the Internet Party, which will contest New Zealand general elections in September from a platform promoting online privacy rights and reforms to copyright laws. Dotcom has the right to vote in New Zealand but cannot stand for election until he becomes a citizen.

April 2014 - Major U.S. film studios including Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Disney Enterprises Inc. and Paramount Pictures file a civil suit for copyright infringement against Megaupload, Dotcom and his colleagues. They charge that the site infringed the copyrights for films including "Avatar", "Forrest Gump" and "Transformers".

The same week, Dotcom and his colleagues are slapped with another copyright infringement suit by music labels Warner Music Group Corp., UMG Recordings Inc., Sony Music Entertainment and Capitol Records.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Mike Collett-White)