The U.S. government is refusing the order of a New Zealand judge that it turn over evidence being used in the extradition of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, reports Mike Masnick of Techdirt. The FBI believes that Dotcom should only be able to see one file out of nearly 22 million emails seized in the January 20 raid that was ruled illegal because of an invalid search warrant.
The New Zealand prosecutor working on behalf of the U.S. argued that there was no need for the 38-year-old dual citizen of Germany and Finland to have access to the information because he was not being tried in New Zealand and the judge only has to decide if there is a case against him in the U.S.
That doesn’t look like it’s going to fly as the judge ordered in May that the U.S. government disclose all documents related to the alleged criminal acts held by the FBI and other U.S. authorities.
The charges against Dotcom include engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering, and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.
Before it was shut down in January, Megaupload was one of the world’s most popular websites where millions of users stored data, either for free or by paying for premium service. The site carried 4 per cent of internet traffic.
The file hosting service was disabled due to suspected copyright infringement in a huge raid that confiscated all of its uploaded files, personal and professional, regardless of if users were infringing or not.
However the case against Dotcom appears to have been on shaky ground from the beginning, and it seems the U.S. may have overstepped its bounds and is now doing everything to stifle due process.
As Masnick previously reported, the U.S. seems to be taking an extraordinary interpretation of copyright infringement by using civil copyright infringement as the basis for a criminal copyright charge and then parlaying that criminal charge into even more serious charges.
The distinction between civil and criminal is important because New Zealand won’t extradite someone if the case is really just about civil copyright infringement. The U.S. government must prove criminal copyright infringement as a basis for the racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
The headaches for the U.S. began when authorities filed the wrong paperwork for the raid warrant, leading a judge to order in March that Dotcom’s cash, cars and property were seized using a invalid court order that was “null and void” and had “no legal effect.” Then Dotcom claimed that key pieces of evidence against him are actually files he legally owned, indicating that the prosecution’s case has some serious weaknesses.
After that the police mysteriously lost the video of the raid after reportedly agreeing to let Megaupload’s IT expert download a copy of security camera footage stored on Dotcom’s personal file server. The server was seized by police during the raid even though it was not among the evidence they claimed to be pursuing, and they subsequently disassembled it for some reason.
It was also reported that federal investigators somehow gained access to the five years worth of online conversations between Dotcom and his colleagues. Since Skype — where many of the conversations took place — doesn’t maintain records for more than 30 days and was never asked by the government to turn over transcripts, it has been speculated that the government used spyware to obtain the files.
The U.S. has also argued that going through a discovery process to share evidence with Dotcom and his lawyers would be too difficult because there is so much evidence and it’s in electronic format, which the judge shot down immediately.
Basically — what a mess.
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