For the past four years, it had been an open secret amongst expats in Phnom Penh that Svartholm was living in a spacious and desirable $750pm penthouse apartment above the ‘Cadillac Bar’ in the Sisowath Quay riverside quarter of the city: an area popular with tourists and expats alike. Cadillac and the apartments above it are owned by American expat businessman Kenny Freedman who yesterday leaked details of Svartholm’s arrest to a customer who then contacted Khmer440.
Svartholm had previously been involved with ‘Arocore’ – a now defunct Phnom Penh I.T. company owned by English expatriate businessman Kit Hargreaves in which his role had been helping design and set up the software for a US based online casino business. However, in 2010 rumors began to circulate about Svarholm’s physical frailty, mental health and drug use. He was said to have been absent from his work project for weeks at a time and on one occasion was reportedly discovered sobbing crouched in the foetal position under the company boardroom table as a meeting was taking place. A work colleague from that period told Khmer440, ”It’s so sad what has happened to Gottfrid because he’s a genius and knows everything there is to know about computers. He can write complex code on two computers at the same time with his eyes closed.”
Arocore folded in early 2011 and at the time Hargreaves put the blame for the company’s failure firmly onto Svartholm whose expertise would have been crucial in fulfilling Arocore’s I.T. contracts.
Since that time, Svartholm has been a seldom-sighted and reclusive figure in the Phnom Penh expat community, living in an area surrounded by nightlife and bars but apparently content to spend his time alone and ensconced in the penthouse apartment he rented. His mother reportedly visited Phnom Penh in 2011 in an attempt to persuade him to return to Sweden for his appeal trial but Svartholm decided to sit tight living on his Pirate Bay income plus fees received from his Swedish based web hosting company while feeling protected by the lack of any extradition treaty between Cambodia and Sweden.
His co defendant and fellow Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde told me by email, ”He did work, just not for local Phnom Penh clients. He had customers (on a consultancy basis) in Sweden. And remember that in Scandinavia, even being on social welfare gives you minimum more than the $750 that his apartment was in rent, so living in Phnom Penh is easy with a Scandinavian standard income or better.”
Svartholm’s whereabouts tonight are now unknown, but if and when he returns to Sweden his destination will not be the relaxed Svartsjo open prison known for its sports facilities and solarium but the tougher Category 2 Mariefred prison 65 kilometres from Stockholm where a harsh northern European winter awaits him: an atmosphere very different from laid-back Cambodia and the tropical weather he had become used to.
Late Saturday night, his supporters set up a free anakata website in anticipation of his return to Sweden.