Customs officers examined the phone of Sharks skipper Paul Gallen when he returned to Sydney airport after playing for Cronulla in New Zealand last weekend.
Fairfax Media understands the Customs officers downloaded data from Gallen’s phone and were acting on behalf of another federal agency.
When contacted on Monday night, Gallen, who had previously declared he was frustrated by suggestions he was the No 1 target in the ASADA investigation, denied his phone was confiscated or information downloaded by Customs.
Fairfax Media understands Gallen, who is expected to be interviewed about the club’s alleged 2011 supplement program by ASADA officials this month, was accompanied by a member of the club’s management during the interview.
The team’s bus eventually left the airport leaving Gallen and the team official to catch a taxi back to Cronulla.
“Customs grabbed ‘Gal’ and they held him for a while,” a source told Fairfax. “It reached the stage where the bus couldn’t wait any longer.”
Gallen said the Customs officers had simply made a routine inspection of his playing gear.
“I had my boots looked at like everyone else,” said Gallen, who would not field any other questions on the matter when Fairfax Media spoke to him.
A spokesperson from the Customs and Border Protection said in a statement to Fairfax Media: “Customs and Border Protection does not confirm, deny or comment on interactions with individual passengers.”
A person associated with Customs officials revealed the officers were ordered to act upon a request from “another federal government agency” to download all data from Gallen’s mobile phone.
Fairfax Media understands the officers were unhappy about what was described as a “bull … order” but they had no option except to do as they were told. They did not know which agency made the request.
Cronulla were returning from New Zealand after defeating the Warriors 18-14 at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
Gallen was notified by ASADA that he would be interviewed by the agency some time this month as part of its investigation into the alleged supplements program employed by Cronulla in 2011.
The NSW Origin skipper and Australian international last week severed his ties with former ASADA legal counsel Richard Redman, who, in conjunction with Rugby League Players Association silk Andrew Coleman SC, had represented all Cronulla players since the Sharks were implicated in the alleged supplements program in mid-February.