Team NZ deny impropriety as America’s Cup row escalates
The intrigue involving America’s Cup defenders Emirates Team New Zealand deepened yesterday, with the team denying financial impropriety and claiming they had been “defrauded” by scammers into sending money to a bogus Hungarian bank account.
It emerged this week that Team New Zealand and event organisers America’s Cup Event had become the subject of an investigation by New Zealand’s ministry of business innovation and employment over the spending of public money. Team New Zealand have described the allegations as “baseless” and “highly defamatory”.
The situation escalated yesterday when The New Zealand Herald leaked the contents of a confidential letter written on June 22 by the ministry and the Auckland council. The letter referred to “serious matters” raised by a financial investigation firm commissioned to look into the financial management of next year’s America’s Cup in Auckland.
Among the concerns raised were allegations that ACE had used public money inappropriately. This included a £1.56 million loan to Team New Zealand “which was subsequently reclassified” as well as a payment made to a Hungarian bank account “through fraud”. Local media reported that more than £520,000 was sent to the account.
The letter also referred to a “lack of record-keeping and unwillingness to provide information”.
Grant Dalton, Team New Zealand’s managing director, insisted no public money had been misused, telling Newstalk ZB: “I approved an invoice for a large contractor in Europe. It was the correct invoice and the money was sent to Hungary.
“Is that fraud? Yes, it is insomuch as we were defrauded. Is it fraud in the sense it’s portrayed in the paper? Absolutely not. We got straight into the fraud police and recovered some of the money.” Dalton added: “There’s never been a loan to Team New Zealand from the event.”