Lawyers defending Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload associates against extradition to the United States have accused the FBI of pirating data belonging to the file-sharing magnate.
Lead counsel for Dotcom, Willy Akel, said in Auckland High Court that the FBI had cloned data on Dotcom's hard drives and sent it to the US by FedEx, removing New Zealand Police jurisdiction over the matter.
The act, he said, was illegal and contravened an undertaking by the New Zealand Solicitor-General, acting for the United States, not to send any evidence overseas until a hearing on the matter took place.
Akel said the FBI had sent the data just days after the decision to accept the undertaking.
NZ Crown lawyers acting for the US did not deny the material was sent to the US but argued it was not illegal.
John Pike, acting for the Solicitor-General, claimed the relevant law applied only to physical possessions, and not information. As such, it wasn't illegal for FBI to copy the data and to spirit it out of New Zealand, he said.
Presiding judge Justice Helen Winkelmann has previously ordered that any material not relevant to the case must be returned to Dotcom, who had his assets seized and company wiped out in a joint NZ and US police raid in January.
Justice Winkelmann is yet to rule on the current matter. However, lawyers told iTnews that even if she did rule that data was taken illegally and the cloned drive images are returned, it may not help Dotcom's case.
"Assuming the US authorities complied with that order and returned the clones without keeping any copies, that might make it more difficult for them to prosecute the case in the US but it will not have any impact on the extradition proceeding here in New Zealand," intellectual property lawyer Rick Shera said.