All Blacks bugging: Device was only three days old

By Simon Plumb

A policeman speaks to hotel security outside the Intercontinental Hotel, where the All Blacks are staying ahead of their test. Photo / File
A policeman speaks to hotel security outside the Intercontinental Hotel, where the All Blacks are staying ahead of their test. Photo / File

Australian police are scouring CCTV footage in the hunt to identify who planted a listening device in the All Blacks' hotel meeting room.

Latest developments in the ongoing police probe include poring through security camera footage in what has become a "forensic investigation" into what happened at the Intercontinental hotel in Double Bay.

The Weekend Herald also understands from a well-placed Australian source that the sophisticated listening device, found concealed in a chair, only had a battery life of around three days - and was still operational when discovered by All Blacks security personnel.

The twist suggests the All Blacks were the specific target of the bug and its presence in their hotel meeting room was not from a previous deployment.

New Zealand Rugby was not prepared to comment last night when asked about the bug's battery life and its status when found.

A spokeswoman said it would be inappropriate to comment further while the police investigation continues.

New South Wales police did not address direct questioning about the bug being operational either, but did confirm detectives are still digging for the facts, have taken possession of CCTV footage and are prepared to lay charges.

When asked if police had recovered CCTV from the hotel, a NSW police spokeswoman said: "CCTV has been obtained as part of the investigation and is being reviewed."

"Once the investigation has been completed, appropriate outcomes will be determined, and if appropriate, relevant charges will be laid.

The Intercontinental hotel at Double Bay, where a bug was found in the All Blacks' team meeting room, prior to the first Bledisloe test match against the Wallabies.
The Intercontinental hotel at Double Bay, where a bug was found in the All Blacks' team meeting room, prior to the first Bledisloe test match against the Wallabies.

"NSW Police is conducting an ongoing investigation which involves forensic examination and further follow-up in relation to the matter."

Australian Rugby Union chief, Bill Pulver, said he had no further information, "simply what has been reported".

Pulver categorically cleared the ARU from any involvement in the scandal last weekend.

Pulver flies to New Zealand this morning ahead of the All Blacks and Wallabies' second Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington tonight. He said he would be talking to NZR counterpart Steve Tew today, but the bugging incident would not be a priority on the agenda.

Part of the police investigation is focused on why there was a five-day delay in the device being reported by NZR.

The bug was found by All Blacks personnel on Monday, August 15 during a routine security check. However, it wasn't reported to police until Saturday August 20 - hours before the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium.

Aussie rugby boss Pulver said he was "utterly disappointed" media broke the story "on match day."

Superintendent Brad Hodder said "any delay in any investigation's always tough but we'll look at that information".

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said management decided it was best to wait for NZR chief Tew to arrive in Sydney from the Rio Olympics before taking the matter further.

This week Prime Minister John Key said people should not jump to conclusions about the bugging device, saying: "It could have been there for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was old, maybe it was deliberate, who knows?"

World Rugby says it is taking the issue seriously.

"We take all allegations of compromised sporting integrity seriously and have in place robust regulations and programmes, including those that operate at our own events," a World Rugby spokesman said.

One theory is that a betting syndicate is behind the planting of the device.

Renowned journalist and sports betting investigator Declan Hill said the device was most probably planted by big players in the gambling market.

"What you're after is 100 per cent certainty. That's the holy grail of the gambling market," Hill said.

"Knowledge is power. If you know who the starting 15 is, for example, before anybody else does, that's a huge advantage and makes the investment of the device well worth it."

Hill said the planting of listening devices in team hotels was common and even endemic in some parts of the world.

"'In China, visiting sports officials and athletes should just assume it is happening rather than the other way."

The only element of surprise in the story, Hill said, was that it occurred in Australia and that it appeared it was now happening in rugby, the "game of savages played by gentlemen."

- NZ Herald

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