Four people have been arrested in the Auckland area today as part of an operation led by the US Department of Justice targeting large scale criminal copyright infringement and money laundering around the world.
The arrests, carried out by the Organised & Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) and New Zealand Police, follow a mutual legal assistance request from the United States to arrest of individuals for the purpose of extradition.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a group of people who are alleged to be engaged in and facilitating criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a massive scale.
The group, known as the “Mega Conspiracy” allegedly operates Megaupload.com, an Internet website that offers file hosting and distribution services. This site has been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of reproducing and distributing infringing copies of all types of copyrighted works, including movies, television programmes, music, software and books.
The estimated harm to copyright holders is believed to be more than US$500 million.
The four people were arrested at addresses in Coatsville and Orakei. A total of 10 search warrants were executed at residential and business addresses across Auckland.
Those arrested have German, Dutch and Finnish citizenship. Some are resident in New Zealand.
All will appear in the North Shore District Court this afternoon.
Assets have been seized including luxury cars with an estimated total value of up to NZ$6m. These include a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe valued at over NZ$500,000. Over NZ$10m has also been seized from NZ financial institutions. These have been secured by New Zealand's Official Assignee pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
Detective Inspector Grant Wormald of OFCANZ says today's arrests were the result of several months coordination with the FBI and US Department of Justice:
"The FBI contacted New Zealand Police in early 2011 with a request to assist with their investigation into the Mega Conspiracy." said Mr Wormald.
"We were happy to provide this assistance. Staff from OFCANZ and New Zealand Police have worked with the US authorities over recent months to effect today's successful operation.
"All the accused have been indicted in the United States. We will continue to work with the US authorities to assist with the extradition proceedings." said Mr Wormald.
Detective Inspector Grant Wormald will hold a media conference at the North Shore Policing Centre, 52 Parkway Drive, Mairangi Bay, Auckland at 1.00pm today. Please assemble at the ground floor reception.
As this is a US Department of Justice led investigation comment from New Zealand Police and OFCANZ is limited to today's operation in the Auckland area.
The website of the US DOJ has further information about the investigation. www.justice.gov
New Zealand Police and OFCANZ: Grant Ogilvie, 027 236 9974
US Department of Justice: Public Affairs, 001 202 514 2007