Kim Dotcom, founder of the Megaupload.com website shut by U.S. authorities for alleged copyright infringement, wasn’t beaten during a January raid on his New Zealand mansion, two police officers testified.
“None of us punched him in the face,” a member of New Zealand’s Armed Offenders Squad testified in Auckland High Court yesterday, the second day of a hearing into Dotcom’s bid to reclaim seized computers and hard drives. “I saw another officer walk by and inadvertently step on his hand.”
Dotcom, 38, testified Aug. 7 that he was beaten by police during the raid. He is attempting to prove the search and seizure of his property were unreasonable under New Zealand law in a bid to recover the computers and hard drives, which he said are needed to prepare a defense for a March hearing in New Zealand on a U.S. extradition request.
The first two officers to reach Dotcom in a safe room of his rented home on Jan. 20 gave varying accounts of his demeanor. A Special Tactics Group member described Dotcom as cooperative during the arrest, while the Armed Offenders Squad officer said he was belligerent and wore a look of disdain.
The officers’ names can’t be published by order of Justice Helen Winkelmann.
Dotcom was indicted in what U.S. prosecutors dubbed a “Mega Conspiracy,” accusing his file-sharing website of generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds from the exchange of pirated film, music, book and software files.
Dotcom faces as long as 20 years in prison for each of the racketeering and money-laundering charges in the indictment, with the U.S. seeking his extradition for a trial in Virginia. He testified that he was punched in the face, kicked and kneed when officers swarmed him as he sat with his hands raised.
“I say that’s incorrect,” the Special Tactics Group officer in charge of finding Dotcom during the raid said, adding Dotcom’s hands were in his lap. “It’s wrong.”
Dotcom’s lawyer Paul Davison detailed the planning and the raid through cross-examination of the two officers and showing of video taken from one of two helicopters used in the assault on the home, attempting to persuade the judge the scope of the operation was unnecessary. Two SWAT-like teams in helicopters four AOS teams in vans and four-wheel drive vehicles and one reserve AOS team were involved in the raid, according to the testimony.
Dotcom said he had cooperated with police in the past and would have opened the door for them, had they knocked.
Working from information provided by the FBI and their own reconnaissance, police were concerned that Dotcom had security staff who might be motivated to resist in order to protect him, the Special Tactics Group officer said. Police also had concerns that he would barricade himself inside the mansion and destroy evidence needed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his prosecution in the U.S., the officer testified.
“Conventional police couldn’t overcome” those potential obstacles, the officer said.
Davison referred to pictures of a security guard greeting a uniformed officer at the gate to the mansion and shaking his hand, before two tactical squad officers grabbed the guard and restrained him. The police vehicles arrived at the home within seconds of the helicopters, Davison said.
The Dotcom mansion in an Auckland suburb is valued at NZ$30 million ($24 million), according to an article on the stuff.co.nz website. The property is also known as the “Chrisco mansion,” because it was built by the founders of a Christmas hamper company of the same name.
German-born Dotcom, who legally changed his name from Kim Schmitz, spent four weeks in jail before being released on bail to await the extradition hearing. In addition to the computers and hard drives, police seized 18 luxury vehicles in the raid, including a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and a 1959 pink Cadillac.
Winkelmann had earlier ruled police relied on illegal warrants that were overly broad to conduct the raid.
The case is between Kim Dotcom and Attorney-General. Civ 2012-404-1928. High Court of New Zealand (Auckland).