Top New Zealand navy officer ‘hid camera in embassy toilet’
No indecent images were discovered on his computer, but police matched the official’s DNA to samples found on the memory card in the camera
One of New Zealand’s top naval officers has been accused of hiding a camera in the toilet of the country’s embassy in Washington in a bid to obtain intimate footage of people using the bathroom, court documents revealed on Friday.
Commodore Alfred Keating was a senior defence attaché at the Washington embassy when a covert recording device was found in a unisex lavatory in July last year, Judge Grant Powell said. The toilet was available for use by the 60 or so people who worked at the embassy.
“It had been purposely mounted inside a heating duct in the bathroom at a height and direction that captured recordings from people who arrived and used the toilet,” he said in a written judgment.
The hidden camera was discovered when it fell on the floor. A thick layer of dust on its mounting indicated it had been in place for many months.
It had been activated the morning it was found and had 19 images of people from that day, the documents say.
While Keating had diplomatic immunity in the United States, police in New Zealand executed a search warrant on his home seeking evidence in the case.
No indecent images were discovered but police found Keating had installed driver software for the camera.
They also matched his DNA to samples found on the memory card in the camera.
Keating was charged with trying to make an intimate visual recording in March and subsequently resigned from the military. If convicted, he faces a maximum 18 months in prison.
Bill Hodge, a teaching fellow at the University of Auckland’s Law School, said the case had parallels with that of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who has been cooped up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, where he is beyond the reach of British authorities.
Hodge said although Keating might be beyond the reach of American law, he could still be charged under New Zealand law. He said there were precedents, including cases for crimes at sea that took place outside New Zealand’s territorial waters.
The High Court rejected a name suppression bid by Keating which argued he and his family would face “extreme hardship” if his identity was revealed.
Before the posting to Washington, where he was New Zealand’s most senior military officer, Keating was assistant chief of navy in Wellington.
He has pleaded not guilty. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for July.
Additional reporting by Associated Press