In the ongoing legal squabbles that are pre-empting any major court hearing on the MegaUpload shutdown, lawyers for the controversial file-transfer service last week accused the FBI of breaking the law by taking copies of data seized in New Zealand from the property of the company’s founder back in January.
As much previously reported, the authorities in New Zealand raided the home of MegaUpload chief Kim ‘Dotcom’ Schmitz in January, as US officials entered the American server facilities where much of the Mega empire was hosted and disconnected the website from the net. MegaUpload, Dotcom and six other execs are accused in America of mass copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering.
Amongst the assets seized from Dotcom’s home were seven hard drives. It has now emerged that while it was New Zealand police who seized the computers, the FBI has been given access to them and the American crime agency has taken a copy of all the data stored on the hardware, which has been returned to the US where the authorities continue to put together the criminal case against Dotcom et al.
But, say lawyers working for MegaUpload, an agreement was seemingly in place that any assets taken from the defendants in New Zealand would not be handed over to the US authorities without a court hearing first. The legal men argue that the US feds took a copy of Dotcom’s data without the official permission of the New Zealand authorities, which breaches the aforementioned agreement, and therefore constitutes an “illegal act”.
For their part, the FBI’s counterparts in New Zealand seem to have confirmed that the US authorities had indeed no official permission to take a copy of Dotcom’s hard drives, but insist that the agreement regards the transfer of assets from New Zealand soil to the Americans only related to physical goods and not data.
As also previously reported, as MegaUpload’s attorneys fight attempts by the US to extradite Dotcom and three of his former colleagues, while also preparing to fight any criminal trial that does eventually take place in America, they have been particularly good at picking up on every possible legal technicality, as well as disputing the American’s main charges against their clients.
Previously it transpired that the New Zealand authorities had got the wrong kind of warrant before raiding Dotcom’s home in January, while much as been made of the fact that – as it was a Hong Kong based company – it is impossible for the US authorities to formally file criminal charges against the MegaUpload business, and that the charges against individual executives are not, in the defence’s opinion, sufficiently serious to fall under the New Zealand/USA extradition treaty.
In a previous squabble in Auckland, Dotcom refused to hand over the passwords to access encrypted data on the computers seized from his home until the New Zealand police agree to give him copies of the files, and to acknowledge some of the data is subject to privacy and legal privilege.
It remains to be seen what happens regards the latest “FBI committed an illegal act” allegations.