Anyone could have planted a bug in the All Blacks' Sydney hotel, even months before the world champions stayed at the venue which has hosted many famous guests, a magistrate says.
Security guard Adrian Gard was on Friday found not guilty of making up claims he found the device secreted in the meeting room chair at the InterContinental in Double Bay on August 15, 2016, days before New Zealand played Australia at the Olympic Stadium.
Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson said the device could have been planted weeks or months before the All Blacks stayed there.
Ms Atkinson told the Downing Centre Local Court many important, high-profile people had stayed at the hotel in the past and the bug could have been targeting one of them rather than the New Zealand rugby team.
She said the bug, which was not transmitting, might have simply come to light because the All Blacks decided to carry out a security sweep at the hotel.
There was not enough evidence in the circumstantial case to convict Mr Gard of making a false representation resulting in a police investigation, Ms Atkinson said.
Mr Gard was, however, found guilty of a second charge of acting as a security consultant without the proper licence.
Ms Atkinson said the main police case against Mr Gard could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt given the evidence was so ''thoroughly contaminated'' after the All Blacks decided not to call in police for five days because they were worried about the media getting involved.
It was ''most unfortunate'' that All Blacks team manager Darren Shand wanted the investigation into the listening device kept in-house before finally contacting police on August 20.
"What is clear is those involved prior to police involvement did not appreciate how important it is to be careful with evidence,'' Ms Atkinson said.
In finding Mr Gard not guilty, the magistrate took into account the fact he had no previous criminal record, there did not appear to be any motive for him to stage the finding of the bug, and there was character evidence from All Blacks captain Kieran Read.
Read earlier on Friday told the court he believed Mr Gard was "honest and loyal".
The All Blacks captain said he and the New Zealand team respected "Gardy" for his professionalism and the great way he did his job without hurting the team's "brand".
Gard is due to be sentenced on the second charge on September 1.