Man charged over All Blacks 'bugging' in Sydney
NEWS: A security consultant was charged Tuesday over a bugging device planted in the All Blacks' hotel before last year's rugby Test against Australia in Sydney, an incident which raised tensions between the teams.
The 51-year-old man will appear in court on March 21 charged with public mischief. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said he was contracted by the All Blacks, without quoting sources.
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, which the All Blacks won 42-8.
Police at the time could not say what range the device - described as similar to that used by law enforcement and spying agencies - had, or how long it had been in place.
But New Zealand Rugby Chief Steve Tew said there had been an All Blacks team meeting in the room earlier that week.
Australian Rugby Union Chief Bill Pulver has vigorously denied any involvement by his organisation.
On Tuesday, he took a swipe at the timing of the news being made public, which was on the day of the Test. 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."
In the wake of the incident, it emerged that the All Blacks routinely sweep hotel rooms for listening devices, sparking media claims of paranoia which were angrily denied.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "Frankly, the charge seems bizarre and unbelievable. It's very hard to understand. 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."