US govt loses Dotcom disclosure battle



The US government must reveal information it has against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom to ensure he gets a fair hearing in his extradition proceedings, a court has ruled.

In a judgment on Thursday, the High Court at Auckland dismissed a US government application for a judicial review of a District Court decision requiring disclosure of information to Dotcom.

The US had argued that disclosure in extradition cases is extremely limited and the disclosure ordered in this case amounted to an unprecedented general disclosure of information.

But Justice Helen Winkelmann said the Bill of Rights in New Zealand entitles a person to a fair hearing and the purpose of an extradition hearing is to decide whether the threshold for extradition is met.

She said the documents disclosed should be relevant to the extradition phase of the case and the District Court judge did not exceed the proper scope of disclosure for the extradition hearing.

Dotcom, 38, and three co-accused face charges in the United States of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering.

The extradition hearing is set down for March next year.

Meanwhile, in a separate matter, Justice Judith Potter reserved her decision on whether Dotcom will be granted access to some of frozen funds to pay his legal expenses.

The multi-millionaire hasn't been able to access his assets since his arrest in January in an armed police raid on his Coatesville mansion, north of Auckland.

His lawyers are seeking a variation to the foreign restraining orders in place so that his legal fees, which are approaching $2.7 million, can be paid.

Dotcom's lawyer Willie Akel told the High Court at Auckland that his client wants a $10 million New Zealand government bond released so he can borrow money against it.

Given the highly unusual situation, it's reasonable that Dotcom should be able to access experienced legal counsel, he said.

Mr Akel said the case is "totally unlike any that have come before the court in the past".

However, Crown lawyer Anne Toohey, acting on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, told the court that there should be some judicial oversight and scrutiny of Dotcom's legal costs.

She said there is "no question this has been a heavily litigated case".

Ms Toohey raised concerns about the number of counsel involved in the case and said an application for legal fees should have been made in advance.