WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand police are investigating alleged death threats made against referees involved the Rugby World Cup in France last year.
The acting director of the National Criminal Investigations Group, Detective Inspector Stuart Mills, confirmed Friday that three complaints have been received from World Rugby about death threats against referees and match officials allegedly made from New Zealand.
Police are investigating the alleged breaches of New Zealand’s Harmful Digital Communications Act and the offense of threatening to kill.
According to a World Rugby report, 21 verified social media accounts originating in New Zealand sent threats or abuse to match officials or players who had been involved in the World Cup. World Rugby said its forensic research analyst is working with police or enforcement authorities in Australia, South Africa, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to prosecute those responsible.
An Australian man already has been charged and is due to appear in court in coming days, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
World Rugby said eight match officials and 49 players received online abuse during or after the World Cup.
England referee Wayne Barnes, who controlled the World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand on Oct. 28 which was won 12-11 by South Africa, retired after the tournament citing threats and abuse towards himself and his wife.
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