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New Zealand judge rules Megaupload search warrant illegal

updated 02:45 am EDT, Fri June 29, 2012

Not enough detail on items sought, reason for search

Judge Helen Winkelmann of the New Zealand High Court ruled that police warrants used to seize property from Megaupload file-sharing site founder Kim Dotcom were illegal. The warrants used did not properly describe the offenses that they were related to, lacked details of the copyright infringement offense, and did not specify the types of items to be searched for. As a logical extension to the ruling, Judge Winkelmann said that it was unlawful for copies of Dotcom's personal data to be taken to the United States for use and analysis by the FBI.

The hearing about the legality of the search came after Dotcom questioned the search warrants police used to raid his mansion in January. Paiul Davison, Dotcom's lawyer, said the warrant provided inadequate definition of the offense, making proper identification of items to be sought in the raid impossible.

Winkelmann ordered that no items taken in the raids could be removed from New Zealand, and instructed that clones of the hard drives in the custody of the local police be returned to Dotcom. Additionally, the judge said nobody had addressed whether the police raid could be construed as unreasonable search and seizure, but in her preliminary view, it did.

New Zealand police didn't classify items seized in the raid by relevancy, and handed everything over to American law enforcement. The judge said that the police didn't have the option of deferring to the FBI at the time of the raid in regards to item seizure.

Following the raid, the FBI secretly copied the data, and returned it to the United States for forensic analysis. Judge Winkelmann has ruled it unlawful for this data to be offshore, and views the New Zealand courts as the venue for proper trial and law enforcement, not the United States.

The raid starting the shutdown of Megaupload took place on January 19, effectively closing Megaupload permanently. Dotcom and company co-founders were arrested on January 20, after a raid at a Carpathia server farm in Dulles, VA.

Megaupload lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss all US government charges for violating due process rights in not properly serving the international company outside of US jurisdiction. The FBI and Department of Justice is still seeking Dotcom's extradition to face criminal conspiracy and copyright violation charges in the United States, but a federal judge assigned to the case suspects that the trial in the US may not happen for a variety of procedural reasons.

Dotcom's mansion

by MacNN Staff



  1. dmwalsh568

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Good for Kim

    Hopefully once this case is dropped his lawyers can go after Universal for their malicious false takedown notices to YouTube for that video that started this whole mess.

  1. macnnoel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    This is what happens

    when the US gov't tries to police the world. Shoot first, ask questions later does not really work in this case.

  1. coffeetime

    Joined: Dec 1969



    look at the size of that mansion..... must be very good income doing what they are doing. This reminds of the time when police busting copied VCR movie rental stores across the nation. Now a day it's tricky, people do from their own home or mansion.

  1. Makosuke

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It's a little tough, because while I'm in complete agreement that this entire case is trumped up and vastly overstepping international jurisdiction and general propriety, so I'm fully in favor of the judge's ruling and pretty much anything that goes against the *IAA thugs, I also have so sympathy whatsoever for the business model of the big file hosts.

    I mean, seriously--their business model was essentially selling faster downloads of "free" p*** to people too low and cheap to pay the actual producers of the p*** for it, yet not such complete cheapskates that they're still willing to buy subscriptions to Megaupload or Rapidshare or wherever.

    Yes, there are technically legitimate reasons to use the services, but those legitimate reasons are not where they were making their money. It's a sleazy, parasitic business model, and I really have no sympathy for it.

    Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether the US DOJ is justified in raiding some dude's mansions in New Zealand on trumped-up charges and illegitimate warrants, which is EXACTLY what they did. It's just that I'm not crying a whole lot of tears for anybody involved.

  1. aduffbrew

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Yeah... but!

    This is more about due process and the rule of law than some dirtbag selling access to pirated materials. Yes, there was a sizable amount of legitimate material hosted but logically that's NOT what people were paying for. The whole business model of Megaupload was knowingly designed to skirt copyright and exploit the inherent weaknesses of SafeHarbor. I don't feel terribly sorry for Dotcom but the ends do not justify the means. My government screwed up BIG TIME! Best to let one dirtbag go than set a dangerous precedence. Good on you, NZ!!!

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    What the h***?

    One has to wonder what kind of punishment the judge who signed the warrant will get. I mean, aren't they supposed to look at those things and go "Hey, um, you guys, you need to say what you're looking for!", if not for the whole point of upholding the law, but also just to cover the cops' behind! A bad search warrant means a bad arrest which means wasted money and a blown case.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    And don't get me started about how this was all served mainly for the FBI. Nothing like a little "hey, we couldn't do this, but if you can, and then make copies of everything for us, just think of what we'll learn".

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