New Zealand Prime Minister John Key ordered an inquiry into allegations the country’s spy agency conducted illegal surveillance and wiretaps of people tied to Megaupload.com, whose founder Kim Dotcom is accused of the biggest copyright infringement in U.S. history.
The Government Communications Security Bureau, which provides New Zealand with foreign intelligence, acted unlawfully in helping police find individuals connected to Megaupload and illegally acquired communications, Key said in an e-mailed statement today, citing a court filing by prosecutors. Key didn’t name any of the people involved.
Dotcom, 38, 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. He 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.
“I’m now a real life James Bond villain in a real life political copyright thriller scripted by Hollywood and The White House,” Dotcom said on the social media site Twitter after Key’s statement. “Please extend the inquiry to cover the entire Crown Law Mega case.”
Key referred the probe to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security after he was informed on Sept. 17, according to the statement. He has asked the independent officer to offer recommendations to prevent a reccurence.
The probe should examine the U.S. role in the illegal spying, Dotcom’s U.S. lawyer Ira Rothken said in a phone interview from the Auckland suburb of Coatesville.
“We want to know if the U.S. was aiding or abetting domestic spying in New Zealand,” said Rothken, of San Francisco-based Rothken Law Firm. “It’s something that must be scrutinized, not only to protect Kim Dotcom’s privacy but to protect the privacy of all New Zealanders.”
Dotcom is also attempting to prove that the Jan. 20 search and seizure of his leased Auckland property were unreasonable. He is seeking recovery of computers and hard drives that were taken by police. A New Zealand police officer overseeing the raid questioned whether using helicopters was “over the top” in an August court hearing.
“I expect our intelligence agencies to operate always within the law,” Key said. “Their operations depend on public trust.”
The case is between Kim Dotcom and Attorney-General. Civ 2012-404-1928. High Court of New Zealand (Auckland).