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.