The awful horror of New Zealand’s struggle with youth suicide has struck the Dotcom family, with the self-inflicted death of Mona’s brother, Auji Auxtero.
It has plunged the family into grief and has Kim and Mona Dotcom – who are both in new relationships – wrestling with how to explain his death to his five nieces and nephews.
Dotcom said he wept for two days.
He then explained to his eldest daughter, who was staying, her uncle had died.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do. Nothing prepares you for that.
“It makes you realise how this whole thing that happened to us has had so much impact on our lives. And it’s peaked with this loss.”
New Zealand’s youth suicide rates are the highest in the developed world and last year’s number of self-inflicted deaths rose to a new high of 668 – 13.67 per 100,000 of population.
Auji was found dead in late February at a Coatesville house neighbouring the $30 million mansion which had been home to the Dotcom family from 2010 until the Dotcoms separated in 2014.
It was the mansion police raided, at the FBI’s request, in February 2012 as part of a global operation to shutdown the Megaupload website. Dotcom and three others are resisting extradition to the United States.
Dotcom told the Herald he believed Auji’s death was linked to anxiety over his immigration status.
He said Auji, 18, was concerned about being unable to stay in New Zealand and facing the prospect of having to return to the Philippines, where he was born.
“Auji was a Kiwi. He loved it here. He loved New Zealand. He had a lot of friends,” Dotcom said.
“What frightened him most as that he didn’t know if he could stay here.”
Dotcom said the family had been courted by Immigration NZ to come to New Zealand then after the 2012 raid placed under pressure which he considered to be punitive, special treatment.
This was the backdrop for Mona Dotcom’s final conversation with her brother. She was the last person to speak with him, he said.
“Mona told him his visa was time-limited. And because of all these issues we had with Immigration NZ, Mona wanted to let Auji know about all these difficulties and how they are treating us differently and that he may not be able to stay in New Zealand.
“I’m speculating this uncertainty made him very sad. It’s so crazy he found himself in this corner and made that decision. This was avoidable and unnecessary that it came to this.”
Auji was found dead the next day.
Dotcom met Mona in 2007 when Auji was aged 7. The boy, and his brother – then 9, moved to Hong Kong with their older sister and became a part of the Dotcom household.
He said Auji, who had attended Westlake Boys’ High School, was at the stage where he was making decisions about careers and study. He was a young artist who was interested in film.
He said his relationship with Auji changed when the marriage to Mona collapsed.
“The memory I have of him is of a happy, confident young boy. Always happy, always smiling, always intrigued.
“Unfortunately for him there were a lot of question marks for him about what he can do … because of the challenges for our family.”
“One of the challenges was the uncertainty he would be able to be allowed to stay in New Zealand.”
Dotcom, who met Mona when she was dancing in a nightclub he visited, said her family had a “provincial Philippines lifestyle”.
“The last time he went to the Philippines was a long time ago. The only memories he has about the Philippines is of poverty and limitation.
“The life he had when he came to New Zealand was completely different.
“That is the only history about the Philippines that he knew. It’s the poverty – the kind of life nobody really wants to live.”
Dotcom said Immigration NZ did everything it could to help the family and its staff move to New Zealand in 2010.
“After the raid, this whole support just vanished and turned into total opposition. It has turned into persecution. Every application was denied. There was a time limit to live in the country. It was unfair to them, unfair to my children who see them as family members.
“To tear those bonds apart, it has always been on thing about my case, that has been inhumane and upsetting.
“People have not considered what consequences this has for my children and my staff.”
It emerged through a 2014 Herald investigation Immigration NZ was told of the FBI inquiry by the NZ Security Service and warned Dotcom was a “”bad but wealthy man”. It dropped its objection 90 minutes later after being told there was “political pressure” to approve Dotcom’s residency application.
It had led Dotcom to the belief his residency was a honey trap for the benefit of the FBI.
“They have been giving us payback for trying to stand up to these things.”
Dotcom said Immigration NZ had repeatedly questioned visas for staff which he believed was linked to his accusation the agency had eased his way into New Zealand so he could be arrested and then extradited.
When the agency had been challenged with court filings, it had reversed its decisions and allowed the extensions.
He said Immigration NZ had been shown to be wrong by reversing its decision.
Eventually, he said all staff who had come to New Zealand with the family had left.
“What Immigration NZ did was a great disruption to our family. Now, unfortunately, someone has died because of it.
“The people who were responsible for this are evil people. They have no compassion, no hearts. They have no soul.”
Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield said his client had twice sought to challenge Immigration NZ decisions in court and on each occasion the agency had pulled out before a hearing and reversed its decision.
Mansfield said Immigration NZ was an agency which had considerable influence and power over people’s lives yet appeared to not realise the impact it could have.
He said it was difficult and expensive to seek an independent review of decisions by Immigration NZ, with there being no mechanism for doing so beyond the agency’s own internal process or court proceedings.
There were 1927 appeals against Immigration NZ visa decisions in the 2017-2018 year with 41 per cent of those upheld. Over that time, Immigration NZ received 41,000 applications for residency and rejected 6000.
Immigration NZ assistant general manager Peter Elms confirmed Auji had been in New Zealand lawfully since 2009 on 13 different visas and was on a student visa which was about to expire.
He said Immigration NZ was “sympathetic towards the situation and extends its condolences to the family”.
Elms said Auji had most recently been granted a student visa in February 2018 which was going to run out at the end of March.
He said the agency had not heard from Auji since the student visa was issued and there was no current application lodged.
“INZ was not aware of any concerns or anxiety from Auji in relation to his immigration status,” he said.
Elms said there was no review necessary into the Immigration NZ’s handling of the Dotcom family as it believed its treatment had been fair.
Immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he expected his agency to treat people fairly based on their personal circumstances.
He said there were review systems built into the immigration system for those who were refused.
Lees-Galloway also offered sympathy to Auji’s family. “It is very sad and my thoughts are with them.”
Mona Dotcom was aware this story was being written and had spoken to her former husband before he talked to the Herald.
WHERE TO GET HELP
Need to talk? 1737 Free call or text 24/7
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel you or someone else is at risk, call 111
Australia – Lifeline: 13-11-14
America – Suicide prevention helpline: 1-800-273-8255
UK – 1-800- SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)