FBI Accused Of Illegal Conduct In Megaupload Case

Seven hard drives of evidence obtained by the US agents were not supposed to leave New Zealand, lawyers claim

Megaupload lawyers have accused the FBI of “illegally” copying digital evidence to build a case against the founder of the company Kim Dotcom and his employees.

According to the statement given in Auckland High Court yesterday, US agents had broken the written agreement governing what could be done to the evidence, by taking the data obtained from company’s hard drives overseas without the consent of the New Zealand authorities.

However, the Crown prosecution has argued that information isn’t “physical material” and as such, doesn’t fall under the agreement.

Fighting fire with fire

Megaupload, the popular online depository, was closed down by the US Department of Justice in January as part of a multinational co-operative move against online intellectual property rights infringement. Its founder Kim Dotcom and three of his employees were taken into custody by New Zealand police.

The authorities seized seven hard drives during raids on Megaupload. The lawyers representing the company have argued that the FBI was given illegal access to the information they contained.

According to the BBC, the written agreements stated the drives should not be handed to US investigators prior to a hearing, to decide how they were to be treated. However, Megaupload lawyers say that FBI agents copied the drives and took the cloned information back to the US before the hearing took place.

“The first (copies) were sent without the New Zealand Police having any say in it whatsoever,” Megaupload’s lawyer Willie Akel told Auckland Now.

According to Akel, if the copying and removal was done without the consent of the New Zealand authorities, it would constitute an “illegal act”.

The government’s legal head said the agreement the FBI was accused of breaking did not apply in this case. He said the relevant document only covered “physical” material and not information.

The trial of Kim Dotcom and the site’s management team is due to start on 6 August. Before that happens, Judge David Harvey has decided to give Megaupload’s lawyers a chance to review the complete details of the case. Harvey also ruled that Dotcom can remove the electronic monitoring device from his ankle and move back into the mansion where he lived prior to the 19 January raid.

New Zealand law enforcement officials, who are pursuing the case on behalf of the United States, were given three weeks to provide documentary evidence against Megaupload. And yet, prosecutors have been unable to do this in time, claiming there was too much data to process.

Prosecutors told Auckland Now it would take another two and a half months to comb through the site’s archive before sufficient evidence is produced. It is unclear what influence the missed deadline will have on the case.

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