Warrants Used In Megaupload Raid Deemed Illegal
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A New Zealand judge has ruled the search warrants used to raid the mansion of Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom were illegal. This ruling is quite a crushing blow to the FBI, who has set Mr. Dotcom up to be something of a poster child for the consequences of piracy.
Mr. Dotcom, a native German, was arrested with 4 cohorts in January as a part of an FBI investigation of Megaupload.com. Mr. Dotcom and crew had culled together a small fortune — nearly $175 million — copying and distributing all manner of copyrighted material without prior authorization, according to FBI prosecutors.
Mr. Dotcom and his lawyers insist his website didn’t break any laws, claiming they only offered their users online data storage.
High Court Judge Justice Helen Winkelmann today declared that the warrants used to raid Mr. Dotcom’s elaborate mansion near Auckland were illegal. Furthermore, the FBI’s attempts to not only copy data from Mr. Dotcom’s computer but to take it offshore were also deemed unlawful by Judge Winkelmann.
“The warrants did not adequately describe the offenses to which they related,” Judge Winkelmann ruled.
After his arrest, news sources were loaded with images of Mr. Dotcom’s elaborate wealth. His mansion is worth an estimated $30 million: Parked in front were his pink Cadillac and Mercedes Benz, which were hauled away by Aukland police.
According to the FBI, Mr. Dotcom had cost Hollywood studios upwards of $500 million in lost sales. In 2010 alone, Megaupload had earned Dotcom more than $42 million.
The FBI’s indictment included allegations such as copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering and racketeering. The raid also happened to take place just days after the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) were famously protested in the States.
The Megaupload founder is currently on bail in New Zealand, dodging attempts by US authorities to extradite him on the same charges of copyright theft and money laundering. The extradition hearing will take place in August.
Speaking to New Zealand ONE news last night, Mr. Dotcom said he still could not believe how the FBI had handled the siege.
US lawyer Ira Rothken spoke with ONE, saying he agreed with Judge Winkelmann’s ruling.
“[The warrants] dealt with anything related to some generic offense of copyright, and that would not only include hard drive data, but almost anything in the house – from DVDs, family photos, to a newspaper.”
“These types of findings will certainly have consequences on the Government’s case. Especially for, what the US is calling, the biggest copyright case in history.”
While the FBI and Hollywood may be upset about the internet tycoon’s business, it seems as if several other heavy hitters don’t feel the same way. During its heyday, celebrities such as Alicia Keys and Kanye West endorsed Megaupload. Recently, Apple co-founder and tech revolutionary Steve Wozniak gave Mr. Dotcom his vote of approval.