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New Zealand judge confirms MegaUpload raid and data share illegal

By | Published on Friday 29 June 2012


A New Zealand judge confirmed for certain yesterday that the warrants used for the raid on the home of MegaUpload founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz back in January were illegal, while also agreeing with the tech man’s lawyers that the FBI should not have been allowed to take copies of data seized during that raid back to the US.

As previously reported, it first emerged back in March that police had secured the wrong kind of warrant before they raided Dotcom’s mansion at the request of the US authorities. The raid was part of a united effort with American officials to shut down the controversial MegaUpload file-transfer service, which is accused of widespread copyright infringement.

Then earlier this month it was revealed that the FBI had taken copies of data stored on hard disks seized during the raid, back to the US. MegaUpload attorneys argued this breached the rules that said any seized property must stay within New Zealand, though the country’s police countered that that rule only applied to physical property, not data.

But Judge Helen Winkelmann disagreed yesterday, ordering New Zealand police to return the data files to Dotcom. While on the warrant issue, she told the court: “The warrants did not adequately describe the offences to which they related. Indeed they fell well short of that. They were general warrants, and as such, are invalid”.

It’s not really clear what judicial confirmation of errors having been made by officials means for the criminal case against Dotcom and his fellow former MegaUpload executives, though obviously it’s embarrassing for New Zealand police, and arguably gives the Mega team some claim to the moral high ground. America’s application to have Dotcom et al extradited back to the States is still ongoing. Meanwhile New Zealand police said yesterday they were considering the judgement and were in discussions with the Crown Law Office “to determine what further action might be required”.

According to the Australian Associated Press, MegaUpload’s main legal rep Ira Rothken told Radio New Zealand earlier today: “One would think, with such a large case, that they would have a higher standard of care in how they conducted themselves. In terms of egregious behaviour, this is at the high end of the scale of egregious, wrongful intrusion on privacy”.