Kim Dotcom, accused of the biggest U.S. copyright infringement as founder of file-sharing website Megaupload.com, won permission from a judge to sue New Zealand’s spy agency for intercepting his communications.
New Zealand High Court Justice Helen Winkelmann yesterday granted a request to add the Government Communications Security Bureau to Dotcom’s lawsuit against the country’s Attorney General over a January raid on his Auckland mansion.
“I have no doubt that the most convenient and expeditious way of enabling the court to determine all matters in dispute is to join the GCSB in the proceedings,” Winkelmann wrote in the 16-page ruling posted on the courts’ website today.
Dotcom, 38, was indicted in what U.S. prosecutors dubbed a “Mega Conspiracy,” accusing his 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.
The judge also ordered the spy agency to turn over to Dotcom’s lawyers documents, including any information-sharing agreements GCSB had with New Zealand police or U.S. authorities.
“Today’s judgment shows the New Zealand democracy works and the GCBS spy agency is not above the law,” Ira Rothken, Dotcom’s U.S.-based lawyer, said in an e-mail.
New Zealand’s attorney general’s office objected to including GCSB as a defendant, saying it would distract from the core issue in dispute, according to the judgment.
John Pike, a lawyer representing the attorney general, also objected to disclosure of information sharing with the U.S., saying it would compromise New Zealand’s national security interests and would reveal sharing protocols with allies, according to the judgment.
Ben Thomas, spokesman for New Zealand’s attorney general, today declined to comment on Winkelmann’s ruling.
New Zealand police raided Dotcom’s home using two helicopters and 27 officers, some armed with assault rifles and gas canisters. Police seized mobile phones, hard drives, computers and 18 luxury vehicles, including a 1959 pink Cadillac. Dotcom spent four weeks in jail before winning his release on bail.
Winkelmann ruled on June 28 that warrants police used to search Dotcom’s home were overly broad and invalid.
During an August hearing into whether the search itself was unreasonable and employed disproportionate force, the GCSB conceded it unlawfully intercepted Dotcom’s communications before the raid, Winkelmann wrote in yesterday’s ruling.
“At least some of the material gathered by GCSB through the interceptions will be the subject of consideration in the proceeding in one form or another,” Winkelmann said. “There is a risk that the addition of the GCSB to this proceeding will delay the extradition proceeding, but in reality I think that is not a likely outcome.”
Dotcom’s extradition hearing is currently scheduled for March.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key ordered an inquiry into GCSB’s illegal surveillance in September.
The GCSB contributes to the security of New Zealand by providing foreign intelligence to the government and protecting its electronic information resources, according to a statement on its website.
The case is Between Kim Dotcom and Attorney General. CIV2012-404-001928. High Court of New Zealand (Auckland).