Monday, October 14, 2019

New Zealand envoy convicted of planting camera in its US embassy bathroom

  • >>Charlotte Graham-McLay, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-04-19 11:08:50 BdST

Former New Zealand military envoy Alfred Keating, 59, was convicted of trying to surreptitiously film his co-workers in a bathroom at the country's embassy in Washington. Photo via NZ Herald

A former high-ranking New Zealand military envoy was convicted in Auckland on Thursday of trying to surreptitiously film his co-workers in a bathroom at the country’s embassy in Washington.

The accusation that the envoy, Alfred Keating, 59, had planted a camera in a unisex restroom in 2017 ended his distinguished four-decade military career. Keating, a commodore in the New Zealand navy, was the country’s most senior military official in the United States, where he was responsible for defense strategy and diplomacy.

The camera was discovered in July 2017 when it fell out of its hiding place in a toilet stall used by about 60 workers and a suspicious staff member picked it up for closer examination.

Keating resigned from the New Zealand Defense Force two days after pleading not guilty in March 2018 to a charge of making an intimate visual recording of another person.

During his two-week trial this month, Keating’s lawyer disputed that the camera was his, The New Zealand Herald reported. But Thursday, a jury in Auckland District Court found him guilty after deliberating for 4 1/2 hours.

Keating will be sentenced later this year; the charge carries a maximum of 18 months in jail. Defense officials, when asked to comment Thursday, noted only that Keating was no longer a member of the military.

No indecent images were found on any devices Keating owned. But prosecutors detailed a range of evidence that they told the jury pointed toward Keating’s guilt.

His laptop, under his login, was used several times between March and July 2017 to view the website of the company that made the covert camera, the prosecutors said. Software for the camera was also installed on the envoy’s laptop — but uninstalled just hours after it was discovered, they said.

The prosecution’s case also relied on the discovery of Keating’s DNA on the camera’s memory card, as well as security camera footage and swipe-card records at the embassy, according to The Herald.

In late 2017, police officers searched Keating’s New Zealand home. While they found no indecent images on his devices and no evidence that he had purchased the camera, they did find that he had installed software on his computer designed to remove unwanted files.

New Zealand officers had earlier traveled to Washington to conduct a forensic examination at the embassy, pre-empting an investigation by U.S. authorities — in which Keating would have been protected by diplomatic immunity.

A spokeswoman for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said by email that the ministry hoped the verdict would help bring some closure for those affected. She declined to detail what support the ministry had provided for staff members.


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