The long and increasingly surreal legal battles between former Megaupload owner and founder Kim Dotcom and the US Government over whether or not he will be extradited to the United States to stand trial over what has been described as the largest copyright infringement in US history has taken yet another unexpected turn with the news that a New Zealand high court has ruled that authorities in the country have to reveal information about their illegal surveillance of him, as well as opening the door to his claiming financial damages for their involvement in a raid made to his mansion back in January this year.
The new ruling, from New Zealand High Court judge Helen Winkelmann, orders the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau to turn over records of its unlawful spying activities to Dotcom and his legal team, as well as reveal what – if any – information had been shared with the international intelligence community known as Echelon, or “Five Eyes.” Winkelmann explained that the GCSB had acted unlawfully by spying on Dotcom without checking his residency status at the time (Although Dotcom is officially a German national, he has been a New Zealand resident since February 2010; the GCSB is not authorized to spy on NZ citizens).
Even more embarrassingly for New Zealand authorities, Winkelmann said that Dotcom could now, should he wish, pursue legal action against the Government Communications Security Bureau and New Zealand police for their actions, in relation to the January raid, which resulted in the seizure of cell phones, computers and hard drives and “several luxury cars,” according to reports at the time. The ruling is just the latest black eye for New Zealand authorities in this matter; in September, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was forced to apologize to Dotcom when it first emerged that the raid had been illegal, describing the GCSB’s lack of appropriate research into Dotcom’s residency status as “hugely disappointing,” and ordering a full investigation into the absence of oversight.
Central to the developments to many is the question of whether or not this ruling, or the potential of further revelations of potential illegality surrounding the New Zealand investigations, could impact the US’ attempts to bring Dotcom to the States to stand trial on charges of fraud, money laundering and copyright infringement. Currently, an extradition trial has been scheduled for mid-2013, although Judge Winkelman admitted in her ruling that “there is a risk that the addition of GCSB to this proceeding will delay the extradition proceeding.” She went on to say, however, that “in reality, I think that is not a likely outcome.”
Responding to the ruling, Dotcom Tweeted “Let’s see about US involvement in illegal GCSB spying on New Zealand residents. The truth will come out, in court.” Something tells me that this won’t end quickly…
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