The Government’s lawyers will be wishing they had never bumped into Kim Dotcom and the curious copyright case in which he has become embroiled.
Dotcom (if you need reminding) founded a file-sharing site, Megaupload, which happens to be a business enterprise doing things far beyond Alf’s technical comprehension.
He is accused of breaching copyright laws, so costing owners more than US$500 million ($665 million), which US authorities have called the mega conspiracy.
He is now on bail awaiting an extradition hearing in August.
But Alf has been mortified to learn the Crown seems to have made a botch of things, one way and another, and this botching has been exposed to the public in the courts.
This time Crown lawyers have been ordered to explain how the FBI left the country with evidence that was meant to be kept in “secure custody” by New Zealand police.
Alf keenly looks forward to hearing the answer.
The Herald reports here that
High Court Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann has told the Attorney-General’s lawyer, Mike Ruffin, he has until Monday to explain why FBI agents were allowed to take 135 cloned computer and data storage devices to the United States.
At a legal challenge at the High Court in Auckland yesterday, Dotcom’s lawyer Paul Davison, QC, called the revelation “high-handed” at best and “at the worst misleading”.
This Davison QC feller and lawyers for Dotcom’s three co-accused want a judicial review into search warrants used during FBI-inspired raids on January 20.
Backgrounding us on the matter, the NZ Herald reminds us that Dotcom, Finn Batato, Mathias Ortman and Bram van der Kolk were arrested over allegations of criminal copyright violation through their file-sharing website Megaupload.
Mr Ruffin – a name that comes dangerously close to being inappropriate for a bloke in the law-and-order business – has taken over from an Anne Toohey.
Mr Davison said he asked for assurances in correspondence with her that no evidence would leave New Zealand shores unless on the back of a court decision.
But things seem to have come unglued.
As Stuff tells us here Mr Davison QC revealed that copies of hard drives and what-have-you Dotcom wants back have already been sent to the United States by the FBI.
Davison said the removal of the copies was another injustice against his client.
Davison had written to the crown in February and March asking for the defence team to be supplied with copies of the contents of the computers.
Email correspondence from the Crown, stated copies of the seized devices had to go to America in their original form, but this action “has not happened yet and would not happen without prior warning”.
But copies of the computer hard drives were sent to the US and Dotcom’s legal team were only notified afterwards.
Davison called that a matter of “grave concern” and said his clients rights had been disregarded.
“One’s left with a situation where this whole process is totally off the rails and the protection of my client’s rights have been subverted or disregarded or worse.”
We learn a bit more in the Herald account.
Mr Dotcom and his team have cause to be miffed by the sound of things.
Mr Davison referred to assurances he had asked for in his correspondence with Anne Toohey, that no evidence would leave New Zealand shores unless on the back of a court decision.
“There is no approval for the removal of these clones from New Zealand. There has been an excess of authority.”
Mr Davison said the correspondence included a statement from the head of the police organised crime squad, Detective Inspector Grant Wormald, that the belongings were held in secure custody.
He said Dotcom’s rights had been “subverted or disregarded or worse”.
Another bloody embarrassment for the Crown, which is highly discomforting for Alf, because he likes the Crown to be held in the highest regard.
It used the wrong law to get a court order to seize Dotcom’s assets – an error which contributed to the police having to offer an undertaking of liability. There had earlier been discontent over the size, scale and style of the police raid which Davison has said will form a complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
Yesterday, Mr Ruffin said he was aware the cloned copies had been sent out of New Zealand. However, he said he was unaware of Ms Toohey’s assurances to Mr Davison.
Mr Ruffin told the court a set of digital images copied from the computers had been taken to the US. “The actual items seized under the search warrant remain in New Zealand,” he said.
Alf is feeling somewhat sympathetic towards Mr Dotcom.
Among other things, of course, he comes from Germany, and the Royal Family have German blood pumping through their veins.
The FBI, on the other hand, is a construct of the American government, which was created in the aftermath of the revolution which resulted in the US breaking away from the Crown and humiliating King George the Something Or Other.
Yep, there was the matter of a couple of world wars when the Yanks fought on our side and the Germans were the enemy.
But let’s pass those off as family tiffs.
In the grand scheme of things, a country which rejected The Royals deserves to come off second best in a situation involving a bloke from a country with blood ties to Her Majesty.
The FBI accordingly should be left to do its own dirty work without help, legal or otherwise, from our authorities.