David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Elite force in dark in Dotcom house raid

Kim Dotcom. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Kim Dotcom. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The country's most elite armed police were told they had to find Kim Dotcom before he destroyed evidence, but were banned from searching building plans to learn about the interior of the tycoon's mansion, a court has heard.

The High Court at Auckland heard yesterday it took the special tactics group (STG) more than 13 minutes to find Dotcom - and then only after his bodyguard showed them the location of the tycoon's "safe room".

The hearing follows a ruling the search warrants executed during the raids were invalid. Chief High Court judge Helen Winkelmann is hearing evidence before deciding what should be done with the seized evidence.

Dotcom last night sent a Twitter message saying: "After reliving the raid in the court room I am angry. So many lies. There was no justification for this! All just a big show for the US!"

His lawyer, Paul Davison, QC, yesterday quizzed a sergeant and another officer from the elite STG about the raid, which followed an FBI request for help with an investigation into criminal copyright violation.

The men were among 30 officers from the STG and armed offenders squad tasked with leading the raid at the mansion in Coatesville before being backed up by other officers.

The court heard the primary objective of the raid was to stop Dotcom destroying evidence. The sergeant had earlier confirmed his notes, which stated Dotcom had a "device to delete servers around the world" - information he said came from the FBI.

The sergeant said there were concerns about a "safe room" somewhere inside the mansion. When asked why the STG had not sought more detailed plans of the mansion from the local council, he said: "Operational security was identified as a higher priority. We were prevented from going and sourcing more detailed plans."

The sergeant accepted it took just over 13 minutes to find Dotcom, and only after the millionaire's bodyguard showed officers the secret door behind which a staircase led to the "safe room".

The two STG members denied claims made in court by Dotcom that he had been punched and pushed to the floor by boots. They confirmed Dotcom's hand had been trodden on, with one officer confirming it bled as a result. Both said the injury was accidental.

The other officer rejected Mr Davison's questions about the closeness of STG members. "All the STG are professional so we would not collaborate to cover anything up, if that's what you mean," he said.

Mr Davison had referred to notes written by the inspector commanding the STG. The inspector had written there was a need to balance the need to execute the search warrant with "heavy-handed" approach of the STG.

- NZ Herald

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