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Justice

German-born Internet-mogul gets boost in battle against US extradition

Kim Dotcom, a file-sharing website founder, has scored a legal victory in a New Zealand court against US extradition attempts. American authorities want to try Dotcom in a US court for alleged copyright theft.

The High Court in New Zealand's capital, Wellington, on Friday upheld a previous court ruling that a police raid on Kim Dotcom's residence near Auckland in January last year was illegal.

High Court Judge Helen Winkekmann ruled that the warrants police had used to search of Dotcom's mansion were too broadly worded to be considered reasonable.

"The deficiencies in the warrants and, as a consequence, the searches, were more than merely technical," the judge said. She also ordered police to re-examine all data seized during the raid.

"The police are to review digital data storage devices and return any to the plaintiffs that contain no relevant material," Winkelmann said. She also ordered police to provide “clones” of all devices that had already been deemed relevant to the case and forwarded to the FBI.

Unfair disadvantage, said defense

The ruling came after Dotcom's lawyers argued that their lack of access to the evidence had put them at an unfair disadvantage in their efforts to fight extradition proceedings against their client.

Dotcom, a German national who is a resident of New Zealand, was the founder of the Megaupload file-sharing website which was shut down by US authorities in January 2012.

American authorities argued that Megaupload and other related sites had generated more than $175 million (134 million euros) through illegal means and cost copyright holders more than $500 million in lost revenues.

The US Justice Department is seeking Dotcom's extradition from New Zealand so he can put him on trial on charges including copyright theft, racketeering, fraud and money-laundering.

If found guilty, Dotcom, who was born in Germany as Kim Schmitz, could face up to 20 years in prison. The 39-year-old, who has denied any wrongdoing, launched a new file-sharing service known as Mega earlier this year.

He and three others are free on bail pending their next extradition hearing, which is scheduled for August.

pfd/ipj (Reuters, AFP)