Kim Dotcom, the notorious founder of MegaUpload and one of the most-wanted alleged copyright infringers in the world, may get all his stuff back from police after a judge ruled that authorities seized his property on a faulty court order.
A judge in New Zealand, where the 38-year-old Dotcom is a citizen, ruled on Friday that U.S. authorities did not obtain the proper court order before sending local police to seize his property, according to The New Zealand Herald.
That means New Zealand police went on an unlawful manhunt and illegally invaded Dotcom’s home, taking his vehicles, electronics, jewelry and all other financial assets, without a valid court order to back them up.
New Zealand Justice Judith Potter noted that it wasn’t until hours after the raid that police realized their mistakes and actually applied for the proper court order, seeking to make it retroactive by listing targeted assets that had already been seized.
MegaUpload.com was taken down in January after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accused its founder of generating revenues — some $175 million, according to their complaint — off copyrighted materials uploaded by its users. The website specialized in blind file hosting, allowing anyone to upload anything and share it with others.
While the site claimed to have staff that watched for and removed infringing material, copyright holders in the U.S., including music and movie studios, claimed MegaUpload caused more than $500 million in total damages. The case also triggered a furious response from the hacker collective “Anonymous,” which took credit for briefly taking down the FBI and DOJ websites following the raid.
Dotcom, who legally changed his name from Kim Schmitz, has denied all wrongdoing and called the case against him “malicious” and “political.” He even claimed earlier this month that once his company’s files are returned to him, they would reveal names of U.S. government officials who allegedly used MegaUpload. Dotcom said they include Department of Justice and U.S. Senate employees.
He’s since been granted bail and remains on house arrest in New Zealand, pending an extradition request from the U.S. — which becomes more difficult due to the latest ruling. Judge Potter said in her ruling Friday that Dotcom’s motion was granted on a temporary basis, and that she would rule again soon on whether his property should be returned.
The ruling does not affect criminal charges against Dotcom, but could see his millions in assets returned, which would surely help bolster his legal defense.