BusinessDesk report by Paul McBeth
The search warrants executed in the high profile arrest of internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom in 2012 were invalid and nothing more than a “fishing expedition,” the Supreme Court in Wellington was told today.
Dotcom and his co-accused Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk want the country’s top court to rule the warrants were invalid in their latest legal attempt to head off the US Federal government’s bid to extradite them to the US, where they face charges of conspiracy to operate websites used to illegally distribute copyrighted material.
Counsel for Dotcom, Paul Davison QC, told the bench the warrants needed to be more specific and identify what within the vast amount of information stored on the electronic devices seized in the raid was relevant. That was to recognise the right to privacy an individual could expect under the Bill of Rights Act, he said.
“This was a general warrant and a fishing expedition – it was no more or less,” he said.
Davison said the case warranted “a more surgical approach based on recognition of privacy, rather than a broad-brush, broad opening up of data that might be relevant,” given the amount of information the authorities gathered in their long-running investigation into Dotcom and his associates.
Earlier this year the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Crown submissions the search warrants were valid, with their deficiencies a matter of form rather than substance, and not great enough to declare them nullities.
Davison said the issue of an individual’s right to privacy was fundamental to the functioning of a democratic society, and that the authorities didn’t have the right to withhold Dotcom’s property and information to use for a lawful purpose.
The Supreme Court hearing, before Chief Justice Sian Elias and Justices John McGrath, William Young, Susan Glazebrook and Terence Arnold, is set down for two days in Wellington, and is proceeding.