SYDNEY (Reuters) – The security consultant at the centre of the All Blacks bugging case pleaded not guilty to a charge of public mischief at a local court in Sydney on Tuesday.
The accusation that a listening device had been placed in the New Zealand team room at their Sydney hotel ahead of their Rugby Championship test against Australia last August caused acrimony between the two rugby unions.
Adrian Gard, who has worked on security with the New Zealand team for a decade and has also protected former U.S. President Bill Clinton and other celebrities, was arrested and charged by police in February.
On Tuesday, he appeared at Waverley Court near Bondi beach and registered a ‘not guilty’ plea. The case was adjourned until May 2, local media reported.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, police will allege Gard made a false statement to police that he had found a listening device in a chair in the team room, sparking an unnecessary investigation.
The 51-year-old Australian’s lawyer told reporters he had requested a two-day hearing when All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and his management team were available.
Hansen last month described the charge as “bizarre and unbelievable” and said he could not conceive of any motive for Gard to do what the police allege.
Despite New Zealand Rugby being aware of the alleged discovery of a device earlier that week, it was not reported to the police until the morning of the match, when it was also splashed across the New Zealand media.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver later suggested the timing of the police report was aimed at causing maximum distraction to their team.
New Zealand thrashed Australia 42-8 in the match at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)