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Dotcom to get his data back, by court order

By | Published on Monday 3 June 2013

Kim Schmitz

The New Zealand High Court last week ordered that authorities there hand back to MegaUpload founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz all and any property and data seized from his home in January 2012 that isn’t directly related to the ongoing extradition claim against the controversial digital entrepreneur.

As much previously reported, New Zealand police raided Dotcom’s home in the country at the start at 2012 just as the US authorities were shutting down his MegaUpload business back in the States. Dotcom was arrested and various of his assets were seized. Ever since American prosecutors have been trying to have Dotcom extradited to face charges of money laundering, racketeering and copyright infringement in the US courts.

Those extradition efforts have been hindered by various issues, not least the fact New Zealand police raided Dotcom’s mansion with the wrong kind of warrant, and then breached rules by allowing US officials to take copies of seized digital data back to America.

It was the latter failings that were being discussed in court again last week, Dotcom’s legal people having claimed that, given things were basically seized illegally, all property taken from their client’s home in January 2012 should be returned. And Judge Helen Winkelmann basically agreed with them.

She has ordered police to inspect all the data they seized last year and to return everything not directly related to the ongoing extradition hearing. Meanwhile the US authorities must return cloned hard drives they took back to America, and delete any copies they made from their own servers. It’s not clear how easy it will be for the New Zealand courts to enforce that latter order, though presumably US authorities have to show some respect to the country’s judiciary, who ultimately control whether or not Dotcom can be extradited.

New Zealand police had argued that they made only minor errors when securing a warrant to raid Dotcom’s home, and that therefore an order to hand back all seized property would be going too far, but, according to TorrentFreak, Winkelmann said: “The deficiencies in the warrants and, as a consequence, the searches, were more than merely technical. The defects in the warrants were such that the warrants were nullities. The warrants could not authorise the permanent seizure of hard drives and digital materials against the possibility that they might contain relevant material, with no obligation to check them for relevance”.

It’s the latest in a series of setbacks for the authorities in the US and New Zealand in their ongoing MegaUpload investigation, though prosecutors in America remain optimistic they’ll be able to extradite Dotcom and pursue their charges against him on home soil.