Soldier charged with espionage also accused of being member of far-right groups

10:01 pm on 30 September 2021

A soldier charged with espionage is accused of stashing classified documents in a chiller bag and taking copies of layout documentation of the Linton Military Camp, including a letter assessing vulnerabilities in its physical security.

New Zealand Army soldiers inside an Australian Army vehicle during the mission rehearsal exercise for Task Group Taji 3 at RAAF Edinburgh, with about 300 Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen prepared for deployment to Iraq in exercise at RAAF Edinburgh in Adelaide, South Australia.

Photo: NZDF / Supplied

Charging documents obtained by RNZ also show the soldier is accused of being a member of two far-right groups and holding a copy of the March 15 terror attacks livestream, classified as objectionable by the Chief Censor.

The soldier, who has continued interim name suppression, was arrested in December 2019 amid suspicion he was part of a far-right extremist group.

He has since been charged with 17 offences, including four of espionage, two of attempted espionage, two of possession of an objectionable publication and three of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose.

The soldier also faces one charge of doing an act likely to prejudice service discipline or bring discredit to the service, one charge of negligently failing to perform a duty and four charges of failing to comply with written orders.

The charge sheets

Charging documents, laid by the Director of Military Prosecutions, give more detail about what the soldier is accused of doing.

They allege he was a member of far-right groups the Dominion Movement and Action Zealandia between an unknown date in 2017 and 13 December 2019.

They also state he failed to report finding classified documents after he was allegedly found with a Pams chiller bag containing intelligence training materials, at a 'restricted' classification level.

The charge sheets also state that on or about 20 November 2019 he failed to report contact from what he believed was an official of a foreign country to the Defence Security Directorate.

The country at the centre of this case cannot be made public after the Chief Judge of the Court Martial's Chief Judge Kevin Riordan moved to suppress it, along with the identities of half a dozen expert Crown witnesses.

The charge sheets allege the soldier also copied telephone directories from the Linton, Burnham and Trentham military camps with the intent to share them with a person acting on behalf of a foreign country.

This alleged offence makes up the espionage charge; a rare offence found in the Crimes Act 1961 that carries up to 14 years' imprisonment for anyone who prejudices the security or defence of New Zealand.

The soldier is also accused of illegally obtaining, copying and attempting to share military telephone directories, maps of army camps and access codes and passwords that would allow unauthorised access to several military bases.

One of the charges also alleges he was found with Defence Force ammunition without proper authority.

The soldier was due to stand trial in a Court Martial next week but this has been postponed to allow for further pre-trial hearings that are yet to be set.