New Zealand rugby officials only decided to alert police about a listening device found last year in the team’s Sydney hotel five days after the discovery — on the same day of a match against Australia and once they knew the story was going to be reported by the media.
The witness testimony came yesterday during the trial of Adrian Gard, a 51-year-old Australian who worked as a security consultant for the All Blacks. Gard has pleaded not guilty to a charge he made a false claim to police by reporting the electronics bug had been found.
It was alleged the bug was found in a chair in the team’s meeting room at the hotel in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Double Bay before last year’s opening Bledisloe Cup match. New Zealand won 42-8.
The former general manager of the hotel, Paul Walters, told the Downing Centre local court yesterday he was called to a hotel room with All Blacks team manager Darren Shand and Gard on the Monday before the match.
“They told me that had found a listening device and showed me [the] device,” Walters, giving evidence via a video link, told the court. “I said, ‘Would you like me to contact police?’ Mr. Shand requested I do not contact police.”
Walters said he asked Shand three times in the days after the listening device was found if the All Blacks management wanted to make it a police matter.
“I suggested again to Mr. Shand, he said, ‘no’,” Walters said.
It was not until the day of the match that the team decided to make it a criminal matter.
“I woke [on Saturday] to a missed call from Mr. Shand,” Walters said. “I called him back, shortly after 9 a.m. Mr. Shand advised the news of the bugging would hit the press in 15 minutes and they were happy to get the police involved.”
In March when the case first went to court, Gard denied making a false statement to police.
At the same time, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen described the charge as “bizarre and unbelievable,” adding that Gard “is someone who is trusted and well-respected by us.”
The Australian Rugby Union has said it had no involvement in the placement of the listening device.
“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,” ARU chairman Bill Pulver said after police charged Gard.
“Clearly the media attention which resulted from it was a distraction that neither team needed on the morning of a very important test match.”
The trial is continuing. AP