Fury over US release of Dotcom 'evidence'

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2013

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Kim Dotcom's legal team have been left furious after the United States skirted local court suppressions to release what they say is a "cherry-picked" summary of their case against the piracy-accused.

A detailed summary of the evidence against the Megaupload founder was made public in the US yesterday for the first time since the case began almost two years ago.

The evidence is suppressed in New Zealand by way of a ruling from Judge David Harvey made in the early stages of the court process against Dotcom.

The Sunday Star-Times understands Dotcom's legal team wanted it to remain secret until trial to give their client a fair chance, as they have not been given access to the documents the summary is based on, and believe the US account is one-sided and could create prejudice.

However, the FBI sought leave from a court in Virginia to release what it says is a "new" summary of the evidence to allow alleged victims to come forward and make claims against the estimated $80 million seized from the company.

A US judge ruled the documents could be "unsealed" on Friday, despite the ongoing New Zealand suppression.

The 190-page summary presents an inside look at Megaupload, quoting emails and transcripts of Skype conversations among the site's leadership.

It details how the prosecutors say the site works, the "mindset" of the accused and the massive profit accumulated during Megaupload's rise.

Dotcom, who founded the file-sharing website Megaupload, is accused of copyright infringement and racketeering by the FBI. He denies the charges and is fighting an extradition order to the United States.

So far, Dotcom has had several victories against prosecutors, including rulings that searches at his home breached the law, and that he was spied on illegally by the Government Communications Security Bureau.

His lawyers have repeatedly accused the US of a heavy-handed approach against him, backed by movie moguls and politicians rather than legitimate legal grounds.

Ira Rothken, Dotcom's US lawyer, said yesterday the summary "cherry picked" messages between the accused.

"The DOJ release today is made up of ‘recycled allegations' that don't point to criminal copyright infringement," he said. Rothken had filed an application fighting the summary's release, but he was not heard in court.

Dotcom's New Zealand team are understood to be equally disappointed, particularly after the judge hearing the case here, Judge Nevin Dawson, declined to hear the US on suppression last week.

The team are continuing to seek the documents that underline the "Record of Case" against Dotcom in the New Zealand courts through a disclosure process.

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Meanwhile, Dotcom himself seemed fairly calm about the release, tweeting a link with the message: "Merry Xmas from DOJ & MPAA: 2 years later still NO evidence of willful copyright infringement or a Mega conspiracy."

Dotcom's extradition hearing is set for April, however, further delays are likely.

THE CASE SO FAR

Dotcom arrested in January 2012 in Auckland for copyright conspiracy. He was briefly jailed, then bailed eventually to his mansion in Coatesville with some of his co-offenders.

His legal team have since fought his extradition every step of the way, with hearings reaching both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Dotcom insists Megaupload was not operating illegally, but the US says it was a vehicle for illegal file-sharing and users were incentivised to post popular links in order to create demand – and therefore profit. 

- Sunday Star Times

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