NEW ZEALAND – The police raid on the Dotcom mansion has been discussed for so many months and now the footage of that morning has begun to emerge.
It generally shows what was always said to have happened, but it sheds little light on why it happened.
The FBI is charging Dotcom with internet piracy on a massive scale.
He and his lawyers, both here and in America, assert no helicopters were needed to arrest him, no police officers with semi-automatic weapons with the FBI not too far in the background.
As the legal battle continues over a High Court finding that the search warrants used in the raid were invalid, the raid itself is coming under scrutiny in the High Court.
An elite police office with identity suppression has given evidence in court about what happened.
Those involved are protected for their own safety in future operations unrelated to this case.
At 6.46am on January 20, the raid was underway. The helicopter carrying members of the elite special tactics group flew into the Coatesville home of Kim Dotcom.
“Ground units, Gates are open,” someone says into the radio.
Dotcom’s pregnant wife their three children, some guests and about a dozen staff were also there.
All is quiet below.
Within seconds four armed members of the special tactics group ran towards the main door.
The helicopter immediately took off. The main justification for using it at all was that Doctom’s security staff could have stopped police vehicles at the gates. But as the chopper flew out, ground forces were already arriving just seconds behind.
In court today Dotcom explained his experience of the officers arriving.
“First of all it was not unusual for me to hear helicopter noise, because we were expecting guests to arrive and it’s usual that sometimes guests arrive early in the morning exp if they’ve come from the US and are being picked up by helicopter, so the noise of the helicopter wasn’t really a surprise, but then I heard pinging of stones of rocks to my bedroom window. My shields were down so I couldn’t see outside what was happening. Then shortly after within a few seconds I heard heavy banging on my door.”
The helicopter then circled the property and recorded the police radio conversation.
“I need two guards working, one at the gate and one roaming,” it said.
“Main entry into the bedroom of the target, door’s closed, slammed and had a security lock on it, we’ve breached it. Moved through, he’s done a runner, can’t find him in either the studio or bedroom.”
Dotcom then told the court what he was doing at that point.
“I was on my bed, once the banging started, I pressed an alarm button that is situated right at my bed which was installed in case of an emergency. When I press that it automatically sends a signal to all security guards including Mr [Wayne] Tempero’s room including SMSs to everybody informing them there is an alert. Then I stood up from the bed and made my way to the red room.”
The red room is a secret emergency room inside the mansion.
Despite knowing the room’s existence, having the plans and the door to the room not being locked, it still took police 13 minutes to find Dotcom there.
“I was sitting in front of that pillar in the room and heard loud banging noises, I was scared and worried.”
Meanwhile the house was being closed down, everyone present was being accounted for and contained.
“We have five Philippine females and three children,” the police radio said.
By 7.10am armed officers were on the roof and Dotcom had been found and detained.
Dotcom had stayed in the red room until police found him.
“I thought I better wait for them to come to me rather than me popping out of that secret door maybe scaring someone who might shoot me. So I waited in the red room. I knew the door wasn’t locked, there was a button I could have engaged to lock the door but I haven’t done that. So I waited in the room upstairs for them to come. Once they came up the stairs I had my hands like this [in the air]. And then very quickly they approached me and within two seconds they were there and all over me.”
He then described what the police did to him.
“I had a punch to the face, I had boots kicking me down to the floor, I had a knee into the ribs, then my hands were on the floor, one man was standing on my hand.”
At 7.11am police told each other they had got Dotcom.
“For the log, Mr Dotcom has been shown the warrant to search the property, he acknowledges it.”
Two helicopters had been used, dogs deployed along with four police vehicles. There were armed offenders squad and the special tactics squad.
The elite police officer who has identity suppression described to the court what weapons he was carrying.
“A gun belt which had my secondary weapon, a police issued glock pistol on the right hand side, and additional magazines on the left and my primary weapon which is a cold commando U4556 weapon.”
The FBI were there and during the planning period for the raid.
CCTV footage taken from a tree near the property recorded a helicopter arriving, men and dogs. The house was surrounded.
But the officers were not dressed in full combat gear.
“We wanted to match the threat level, in this case a low threat with our dress,” the elite officer says. “We made that conscious decision not to wear full tactical kit.”
Dotcom’s lawyer asked him if he had seen anything deliberate done to Dotcom.
“Yes there was deliberate force applied,” he said.
So what was behind such a large and pointed operation?
“Primary objective: secure suspect as soon as possible to prevent destruction of evidence,” the elite officer said.
But Dotcom could not have destroyed evidence because the FBI had allegedly seized the Megaupload servers before the raid.
“All of that is so invalid and really angers me because you know the FBI was already in the data centre disabling access to the data they feared we would manipulate. So primary to you arriving there was no chance for anyone to do anything with that evidence,” Dotcom said.