New Zealand military embarrassed by scientist’s fake background

The New Zealand military were left with egg on their face after it was revealed that British-born Stephen Wilce, the head of the New Zealand Defence Technology Agency, embellished his resume and made a string of bogus claims about his past.

Stephen Wilce had initially falsely claimed he was an ex-Royal Marine combat veteran and a member of an Olympic bobsleigh team that had raced against Jamaica’s “Cool Runnings” team in Calgary.

Details of an inquiry released yesterday revealed the extent of Mr Wilce’s claims to incredulous colleagues, saying the Defence force’s top scientist had admitted to telling tall stories about himself since childhood.

Over time, Wilce claimed to have been a helicopter pilot who served with Prince Andrew, a spy with British intelligence agencies and a Special Forces soldier who was now on an IRA death list. Colleagues began to grow suspicious when his boasts grew to include having been a member of the Welsh rugby union team and a captain of the Royal Navy swimming team.

However, Wilce’s claims were uncovered by local New Zealand Television station TV3. Upon their checking, journalists found that no record existed of Wilce serving in Britain’s Royal Marines or of him having combat experience and that no one on the 1988 British bobsleigh team knew of him. A TV3 reporter had secretly recorded Wilce boasting that he was an Olympian bobsleigher and knew the members of the Jamaican team.

Following the TV3 news report, Wilce resigned his position and put officials within New Zealand’s military in a difficult position. The embarrassment was compounded when it was highlighted that Wilce had been given top security clearances as part of his position and would have been privy to national security information.

The TV3 investigation included contacting Wilce’s former employers which revealed that Wilce had a tendency to spruik fanciful stories about himself. One employer recalled that Wilce had claimed credit for designing the guidance systems for Britain’s Polaris nuclear missiles. Had the New Zealand military made similar checks, they would have found out that some of Wilce’s resume were not true.

A New Zealand government inquiry into the matter found the recruiting process for Wilce was “flawed in significant respects”. Though the report didn’t specify the issues regarding Wilce, it did say that certain information had not been rigorously checked and suggested that steps be taken to tighten procedures and follow set guidelines.

The report noted that Wilce had polished his resume when he was recruited in 2005 and his appointment was made without proper checks being carried out. Wilce had made certain claims which were noted by the recruiters but not thoroughly pursued, had they been then Wilce would probably not have been hired.

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