Kim Dotcom, the founder of the now defunct file-sharing site Megaupload, has won an undisclosed settlement from the New Zealand police over their dawn raid on his house in 2012 which saw him arrested as part of an FBI investigation into his websites.
The settlement was a result of a decision by the High Court, who determined that the anti-terrorism Special Tactics Group used “unreasonable force” when going to arrest Dotcom. The court also challenged “visual surveillance” that included scouting the inside of his house with a hidden camera and watching him from neighboring properties, which were not approved by the court beforehand. Risk assessments also depicted Dotcom as violent, despite a lack of evidence to support the claim.
Dotcom said that the police should have just knocked on his door at a “reasonable hour” and arrested him in a quiet manner. The dawn raid seen instead was a “Hollywood-style publicity stunt tailored to appease US authorities,” put in place due to a “misguided desire to cater to the United States authorities and special interests in Hollywood… we are sad that our officers… were tainted by US priorities and arrogance.”
The arrest of Dotcom came as the FBI cracked down on his site, Megaupload, which was believed to be at the center of an enormous criminal copyright operation, allowing media such as films to be uploaded and shared for free. However, non-violent internet copyright infringement charges are not, in fact, considered to be a crime in New Zealand. Others arrested in the operation, such as Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann, have already been paid out settlements by the police, with sums believed to be in the six figures, suggesting that Dotcom, as the main target, would have sought more in the damages claim.
Dotcom explained that he took out the lawsuit because he and his now ex-wife Mona, believed that “their military-style raid on a family with children… went far beyond what a civilized community should expect from its police force.” However, both had decided to settle for the sake of their five children, rather than going to trial:
Our children are now settled and integrated safely here into their community and they love it. We do not want to disrupt our children’s new lives. We do not want to revictimise them. We want them to grow up happy. That is why we chose New Zealand to be our family home in the first place. We are fortunate to live here. Under the totality of the circumstances, we thought settlement was best for our children.
Another reason Dotcom revealed for not going to trial was that “the New Zealand government has recently changed for the better,” referring to the election of the new Labour Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Dotcom maintains that the former PM, John Key, had a deep involvement in the raids on this house, which Key has denied.
Ron Mansfield, Dotcom’s lawyer, said that it was hoped that the case would ensure the police change the nature of their future operations, and put more care into assessing them beforehand. A separate damages case against the country’s Government Communications Security Bureau has yet to be settled. Mansfield said that “the GCSB refuses to disclose what it did or the actual private communications it stole. The Dotcoms understandably believe that they are entitled to know this.”
A police spokesman confirmed the settlement of the case in a statement:
While we are unable to discuss details of the settlement, we can say that it is not uncommon in civil proceedings for parties to reach a settlement before a trial commences. This settlement avoids the significant costs which would have been incurred had the trial proceeded.