New Zealand police had no right to seize everything in sight, a judge rules
A New Zealand High Court has declared that the search warrants, used to justify the raid on the home of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, were “invalid”, as they weren’t specific enough to be used in the case.
Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann also ruled that the FBI had no right to copy seven hard drives of digital evidence and send it to US without the consent of the New Zealand authorities.
Lawyers representing the US government are reported to be discussing their options, including the possibility of an appeal.
Megaupload, the popular online depository, was closed down by the US Department of Justice in January, as part of a multinational co-operative move against intellectual property rights infringement. The founder of the company Kim Dotcom and three of his employees were taken into custody by New Zealand police.
Dotcom’s $23 million mansion near Auckland was raided, and millions of pounds in assets were seized, but the judge ruled the search warrants were too general, and allowed police to confiscate and send overseas items irrelevant to the investigation.
“The warrants did not adequately describe the offences to which they related,” said Winkelmann in her ruling. She also ordered the police to return all of the computer hardware that was seized during the raid and remains in New Zealand.
“[The warrants] dealt with anything related to some generic offence of copyright, and that would not only include hard drive data, but almost anything in the house – from DVDs, family photos, to a newspaper,” Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken told New Zealand’s TV ONE .
“With so little guidance, the police pretty much confiscated all digital media, regardless of the privacy implications and regardless of whether it’s related to the case at all,” he added.
New Zealand police said in a statement the judgment is being reviewed and no further comments will be made until discussions with prosecutors are concluded.
Dotcom, currently on bail, faces up to 20 years in prison. His extradition hearing is scheduled for August.
The alleged king of pirates has found an unlikely ally in the face of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who has called the case a threat to Internet innovation, and is in constant contact with Dotcom, Stuff.co.nz reported.
Megaupload lawyers have previously argued that the US authorities cannot prosecute the company since it is registered in Hong Kong and has no presence on the American soil. In addition, it emerged that the FBI failed to serve Megaupload with formal charges after the arrests.
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