Team NZ deny im­pro­pri­ety as Amer­ica’s Cup row es­ca­lates

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Sail­ing By Tom Cary

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.”

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