June 30, 2012
Fighting extradition to the US ... Kim Dotcom leaves the New Zealand High Court in Auckland. Photo: Reuters
AUCKLAND: A New Zealand High Court ruling that an armed police raid on internet tycoon Kim Dotcom's mansion was illegal is a blow to US authorities trying to extradite him, his American lawyer says.
Justice Helen Winkelmann ruled on Thursday that the search warrants were too broad and police exceeded their powers in seizing what they did.
She also said it was unlawful for copies of Mr Dotcom's computer files to be taken by US authorities, and New Zealand police should return them to him.
FBI agents, who had sought help from New Zealand police, seized a massive 150 terabytes of data.
Mr Dotcom, a German national, is accused by US authorities of facilitating internet piracy on a massive scale through his Megaupload website.
He has been fighting attempts to extradite him to the US since the police raid on his rented mansion north of Auckland in January.
The judge said police botched the paperwork for the search warrants and the searches were illegal.
She postponed until Wednesday a ruling on Mr Dotcom's request for an independent review of all the items seized to identify irrelevant and privileged material.
The US authorities say Mr Dotcom's Megaupload website has cost Hollywood studios and other music, software and television copyright owners $NZ500 million ($392 million).
They are trying to extradite him to the US to face racketeering, copyright and money-laundering charges. Mr Dotcom faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
His US-based lawyer, Ira Rothken, told Radio New Zealand that the ruling was an embarrassment for the American authorites, especially as they have called the case the largest in copyright history.
''One would think, with such a large case, that they would have a higher standard of care,'' Mr Rothken said. ''In terms of egregious behaviour, this is at the high end of the scale of egregious, wrongful intrusion on privacy.''
The ruling supported the view New Zealand police were acting at the beck and call of the FBI, he said.