New Zealand’s High Court has declared that the warrants used to justify the January 19th raid on Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom’s were illegat. The court also ruled that it was illegal for copies of Dotcom’s hard drive to be removed from New Zealand to the U.S.
In the judgment, which is embedded below, Justice Helen Winkelmann ruled that the search warrants were far too broad to be valid. New Zealand law does not permit the issuing of general search warrants. Warrants must be specific in regards to both the nature of the suspected criminal offenses and the articles to be seized. The lack of specificity regarding the offenses and the items to be seized, along with the failure to stipulate that Dotcom was being accused of crimes under American law are symptomatic of “the lack of precision infecting the entirety of the warrants.” As such, “[t]hese were general warrants both in form and reality,” making them illegal under New Zealand law.
Justice Winkelmann also ruled that the transfer of copies of Dotcom’s seized hard drives to the FBI was illegal. New Zealand law requires authorities to retain all items seized until they receive written direction from the Attorney-General regarding what to do with them. Justice Winkelmann ruled that the files on the seized hard drives “are part of the relevant hard drive,” meaning that “the release of cloned hard drives to the FBI for shipping to the United States was contrary” to New Zealand law.
Justice Winkelmann concluded by ordering that cloned copies of the hard drives be returned to Dotcom and his co-defendants “forthwith.”
All in all, this looks like a pretty big victory for Dotcom and the others arrested during the January raid. Meanwhile, U.S. authorities continue to resist returning Megaupload users’ data to them, while making it as difficult as possible for Dotcom’s U.S.-based attorneys to mount a defense.
You can check out Justice Winkelmann’s ruling for yourself below: