Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom appeared in Auckland High Court today as part of a judicial review of the police raid on his rented Coatesville mansion in January. This followed a ruling last month that the search and seizure operation was unlawful.
In this hearing, which is expected to last three days, Dotcom is seeking the return of all seized evidence that is deemed to be irrelevant to the case.
Dotcom's lawyer Paul Davison QC opened the proceedings by cross-examining his client, asking Dotcom what the effect of the raid had been on him and his family.
"I would say it was dramatic, to an extent that we still feel it to this day," Dotcom replied. "Our beautiful home has been turned into a haunted house... life is not the same."
Dotcom said he was in his bedroom when the raid took place, where he has two beds - one for sleeping and one for "working on". He was on the "working" bed, updating Windows on his laptop when he heard the sound of a helicopter landing nearby. This sound not unusual he said, as he was expecting guests who often arrived by helicopter, but shortly afterwards he heard loud banging at the bedroom door.
He said he left the bedroom and hurried to a safe room nearby. This was where he first became aware that police were raiding his house, as he heard shouts of "police!" coming from outside the room.
Dotcom said he remained in the "red" room for approximately eight minutes before three police officers burst in.
"And then they were all over me," he said.
Dotcom said he received "a punch to the face", felt boots kicking him down to the floor and one officer stood on his hand.
Dotcom said he was then restrained by plastic ties which were painful as they were extremely tight. When he complained the police removed the ties.
Davison asked Dotcom whether computer equipment at the house was used to operate the Megaupload business, which Dotcom denied.
Dotcom said the Coatesville mansion was "a very modern house" which had a server room which was used to control entertainment devices, security cameras and other home systems. The server room included a video editing suite and 10 years worth of home video footage, approximately 350 hours in total, which was stored on two servers.
As well as these servers, Dotcom said numerous personal laptop and desktop computers were seized. He said that being denied access to this data had started to cause a "big problem" when he had been asked about his financial status during bail hearings, and he had gone to "great lengths" to obtain the information by other means.
"Right now we don't have access to the data that allows us to prepare for the extradition case," Dotcom said.
Dotcom said the seized data also included many emails and audio recordings of conversations he had with large content providing companies that would be "very revealing" if he had access to them.
Crown lawyer John Pike, cross-examining Dotcom on behalf of the Attorney General, asked Dotcom to explain a handwritten note that was found in the gatehouse of the Coatesville property that read: "Do not let police in - tell Wayne."
Dotcom said he was unaware of such a notice until after the raid but he said he would have co-operated with police and had they knocked on the door he would have let them in.
He said that police, who had been following him for some hours before the arrest, could have apprehended him as he left a music studio early on the morning of the raid.
"If I was the police, I would have done it that way."
During further questioning by Pike, Dotcom resisted suggestions that the manner of the raid had been justified to ensure that evidence would not have been tampered with.
Asked by Pike if approaching the house differently would have allowed Dotcom time to encrypt or destroy files on his computers, Dotcom said that was "ridiculous".
By the time of the raid (at approximately 6:35 am on January 20, 2012) Dotcom said FBI agents had already shut down Megaupload servers in the US, the Netherlands and Canada. Dotcom said police would have been aware of this, because two FBI agents were present and were in direct contact with their headquarters.
Asked later by Davison to describe the internet connections at the Coatesville property, Dotcom said that there was a 100Mbps fibre connection, a backup wireless connection via Auckland's Sky Tower and 3G mobile wireless service. All three could have easily been disabled by the authorities, Dotcom said.
Davison said he would be calling four police witnesses during the hearing. These will include a police electronic crime laboratory specialist, two members of the armed Special Tactics Group and detective inspector Grant Wormald, head of the Office of Financial Crime Agency New Zealand.
Dotcom's US lawyer, Ira Rothken, was present in court though he took no active part in the proceedings. Also present in court were Dotcom's wife, Mona and Dotcom's co-accused Mathias Ortmann, Fin Batato and Bram van der Kolk.