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Security consultant charged with public mischief for bugging All Blacks in Sydney

The revelation that New Zealand’s meetings had been bugged caused serious tension between the unions.

'I'll call you back from a payphone, you never know...'
'I'll call you back from a payphone, you never know...'
Image: Andrew Matthews

THE ALL BLACKS expressed surprise today after a trusted security consultant was charged with bugging their hotel before a Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in Sydney, calling the accusation “bizarre”.

The world champions’ coach Steve Hansen said he found it difficult to understand after the 51-year-old man was charged with public mischief and ordered to appear in a Sydney court on March 21.

The device, planted inside a chair, was found during a routine team security sweep of a meeting room used by the New Zealanders before the opening Rugby Championship Test in August.

The incident raised tensions between the teams and dominated headlines on the day of the game, which the All Blacks won 42-8.

“Frankly, the charge seems bizarre and unbelievable. It’s very hard to understand,” Hansen said in a statement.

“The charged man has worked for the All Blacks, and many other organisations, for a long time and is someone who is trusted and well respected by us.

“However, as with all cases before the courts, there has to be a due process that takes place and it is not right or proper for us to make any further comment as this could jeopardise the outcome of the case.”

A New South Wales police statement earlier said: “A man has been charged after a listening device was located in a room at a hotel in Sydney’s east last year.”

Police at the time could not determine the range of the device — described as similar to that used by law enforcement and spying agencies — or how long it had been in place.

- ‘Bitter taste’ -

Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver has vigorously denied any involvement by his organisation. He said the revelation of the device on the day of the Test had left a “bitter taste”. According to reports, the bug had been detected five days earlier.

“The aspect that still leaves a bitter taste out of this whole affair is that the discovery of the device was reported publicly on game day, when it is understood that the alleged discovery of the device occurred much earlier in the week leading up to the Test match,” he said.

“Clearly the media attention which resulted from it was a distraction that neither team needed on the morning of a very important Test match.”

Pulver added: “The ARU and the Wallabies were never accused of any wrongdoing, however it was still important that this matter reached a conclusion to provide complete reassurance to all fans that the organisation and the team had no part in any of this.

“There may be some questions that remain but certainly today’s news is welcome news that an individual has been called to account over this incident.”

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Australian media have accused the All Blacks of paranoia for routinely sweeping for bugs, an accusation the team rejected.

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