According to new emails outed as part of the Kim Dotcom extradition trial, New Zealand customs officials were offered the chance to earn “brownie pointts,” by the organisation’s operations manager, if they gave up secretive information on the people they were investigating and handed it over to the FBI.
Greg Davies, the operations manager of the relatively newly created Customs’ Integrated Targeting Operations Centre was the man responsible for liaising with the FBI and was the one that offered special treatment for those that aided and abetted the American authorities. He specifically wanted information on Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who at that point hadn’t been arrested. Similarly the US hadn’t officially or legally requested assistance from New Zealand, so any information sharing was clandestine and potentially completely illegal.
According to comments from customs officials, while the request for information was passed around, nobody took Mr Davies up on the offer, though they wouldn’t comment on whether that was because legal advice suggested that they not do so.
Politicians have been using the situation as a way of lambasting government but have also pressed for more information to be revealed, as they don’t want NZ to be seen as a mere arm of US law. The NZHerald has quotes from Labour and Green MPs, who both said that they want to learn more about what information was possibly shared. As one said: “We are not an American state at this point in time – but some of our Customs, police and security bureaucrats are treating us as one.”
Prime Minister John Key said an investigation would be conducted and that “Anyone who is innocent has nothing to fear.”
KitGuru Says: This news isn’t massively surprising as it seems a lot of New Zealand officials, law enforcement and otherwise, were more than happy to go along with US authority requests. Probably not their fault though. I’m sure the leaning on officials goes much, much higher than customs officers.