Attempts by the U.S. authorities to get Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom extradited took a major blow this week when Justice Helen Winkelmann deemed that the police who raided Dotcom’s Auckland mansion acted illegally.
More than 90 officers were involved in the operation in January which saw the Megaupload founders’ house completely ransacked. Police arrived at the property in helicopters and reports state that they even cut through to the safe room where Dotcom was hiding and arrested him!
Justice Winkelmann criticized the police involved in the raid, stating that they had ‘exceeded authority’. In a 56-page document, Winkelmann made a number of damning statements about the way in which the police working on the case had behaved. She said that the warrants that were used in the January raid (which also saw the homes of several others connected to Megaupload searched) were too broadly cast. She said that these warrants were: “lacking adequate specificity as to the offence…The search and seizure was therefore illegal.”
Winkelmann also said that the police working on the case “acted unlawfully” when they refused to release certain seized materials that were not relevant to the charges being brought against Kim Dotcom. One of the items that the police have refused to return is CCTV footage captured by Dotcom’s own surveillance system that shows the raid taking place.
The judge ruled that by handing over cloned hard drives that were seized in the raid to the FBI the New Zealand police had breached extradition legislation.
This ruling is a damning blow to the U.S authorities that have been after the German-born New Zealand resident and his Megaupload associates on copyright, money-laundering and racketeering charges for some time. They believe Dotcom is responsible for abetting the extensive sharing of copyright-protected material via the Megaupload site.
Winkelmann set the date of July 4 2012 for both parties to appear in court in order to attempt to try and remedy the situation.
Dotcom and his associates released a statement saying that they were pleased with Winkelmann’s verdict and that they would be considering their next move. The police have declined to comment regarding Winkelmann’s ruling.
The Megaupload founder has garnered a great deal of public support since his arrest in January, gaining more than 40,000 Twitter followers just weeks after opening an account. He also has the support of several high profile members of the techie community, including that of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak who said that the U.S authority’s case against Dotcom is “hokey” and labeled it a threat to internet innovation.
Wozniak visited Dotcom last month when he was in New Zealand giving a speech, Dotcom is currently under house arrest, so the Apple entrepreneur went to visit him!
Wozniak believes that prior to the Megaupload enforced shutdown in January, many people used it for legitimate purposes and does not agree with the charges filed against Dotcom and his crew. Wozniak made an analogy between the Megaupload site and a highway, stating that those who used it to pirate films and music were akin to “speeding motorists.” Wozniak said that you wouldn’t shut down a highway because a few people are speeding and said that the way Dotcom had been treated was “ridiculous.”
Kim Dotcom Judge Rules Mansion Raid Was Illegal (Via Guardian)