Digital Legal MegaUpload Timeline Top Stories

MegaUpload prosecutors given more time to share evidence

By | Published on Tuesday 19 June 2012


US prosecutors must “immediately commence preparation” for collating all the evidence they have against the founders of MegaUpload, so that that evidence can be handed over to defence lawyers, or so says the Auckland High Court.

As previously reported, last month a judge in New Zealand, where four MegaUpload executives, including founder Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz, face extradition to the US, ruled that the accused should have access to all the evidence being amassed against them before any extradition hearing takes place.

The American authorities – who accuse Dotcom et al of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering in relation to their involvement in the MegaUpload business – had previously proposed to only provide defence attorneys with samples of the evidence seized in January when US officials raided the American server facilities where much of the Mega empire was hosted, and when New Zealand police raided the homes of the four accused executives.

Prosecutors were initially given three weeks to provide defence lawyers with copies of all the evidence they are sitting on, but US and New Zealand officials leading the prosecution said that was unrealistic, because there was so much data it would take two to three months to make copies. The also argued that some of the data they had seized was encrypted, making it difficult to share.

But in a new court hearing in Auckand, judge Helen Winkelmann has said that, however long it takes, prosecutors should still have to provide defence lawyers with all the evidence they have access to, even if it takes considerably longer than the three weeks originally allowed. With regards digital data, she added, defence lawyers are simply expecting clones of entire hard disks, and if some of the data on those disks is encrypted that’s not an issue.

However, Winkelmann conceded that it was pointless for the courts to set an unrealistic deadline for the evidence exchange, and instead of setting a target date she endorsed a proposal made by one of MegaUpload’s legal reps that prosecutors simply be obliged to “immediately commence preparation” for the handing over of files.

And while at least one MegaUpload lawyer has previously expressed concerns that the prosecution will procrastinate on this if they can, Winkelmann noted that any delays in the sharing of the evidence will simply delay the date of any extradition hearing – such a hearing was originally set for early August – and that it is in the prosecution’s interest to enable their extradition claim to be heard in court as soon as possible.

That said, if it will really take three months rather than three weeks to prepare to share evidence, it could be Autumn before Dotcom and his fellow Mega execs return to court in a bid to fight America’s extradition attempts.