Team New Zealand moves to block publication of forensic financial report

Team New Zealand moves to block publication of forensic financial report

Emirates Team New Zealand is fighting to prevent the New Zealand Herald from publishing details of a report by forensic accountants.

A legal battle is taking place in the High Court in Auckland involving Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), America’s Cup Event Ltd (ACE), the New Zealand Herald’s publisher NZME, the Government and Auckland Council.

Last week, ACE and ETNZ obtained an interim High Court injunction order against NZME to prevent the media company publishing or broadcasting details of a report by forensic accountants, Beattie Varley, about recordkeeping and use of public funds allegations.

NZME is arguing to have the injunction order overturned on the grounds of public interest.

Lawyer Davey Salmon, who represents ETNZ and ACE, says his clients had “absolutely no idea of the scandalous allegations” until they received the Beattie Varley report, according to the Herald.

After hearing a nearly three-hour debate, Justice Simon Moore reserved his decision, which will be delivered in writing at a later date. The interim injunction order remains until his judgment.

MBIE earlier confirmed it had suspended public funding for the 36th America’s Cup – due to be held in Auckland next year.

It said $40 million has been set aside for the event fee and, to date, $29m has been paid to ACE in line with contractual funding milestones.

“While Crown and Council work through this process regarding the claims made relating to the organisation of the 36th America’s Cup, we are not intending to make further payments to America’s Cup Events Limited (ACE),” says MBIE’s general manager for tourism, Iain Cossar.

“This will be revisited pending the outcome of the process.”

The suspension of public funding came after allegations emerged involving ETNZ and America’s Cup organisers, and an inquiry was commissioned by the Crown over the spending of public money, including claims of a “reclassified” $3m loan, and of fraud involving a Hungarian bank account.

Grant Dalton

Grant Dalton, ETNZ CEO, says the allegations are “a deliberate, sinister, and highly orchestrated attack which includes anonymous tip-offs, recordings and document leaks”.

Dalton has also claimed “spies” were caught leaking confidential information and spreading “inaccurate allegations”. Read his full statement below.

A multi-national police investigation is also under way into ETNZ’s allegations of a hacker posing as a European TV contractor convincing the yachting syndicate to send a seven-figure sum to a Hungarian bank account.

The Auckland City Financial Crime Unit is investigating the alleged scam with the help of officers based in Europe and Hungarian authorities, after receiving a report in December.

Dalton has said the hacker changed one character in the contractor’s email address when contacting them about the new account details.

ETNZ has said it was swindled out of a large figure but has hit back at concerns over its handling of public money. Dalton has said the team lost a seven-figure amount, but said that it was the victim of an international scam.

No public money was lost in the scam, he has claimed, and has strongly rejected any suggestion ETNZ was involved in fraudulent activity, instead saying it had been conned.

“Some time ago, I approved an invoice for a large contractor in Europe,” Dalton said.

“And, no, I did not check the noughts and the ones on the bank account. It was the correct invoice as per the contract, and the money was sent to Hungary.”

Read Dalton’s full statement:

“This week has seen a highly orchestrated attack on our integrity and credibility by people with questionable motives. We want to reassure all of our supporters, our sponsors, and partners that there has been no misappropriation of public money, and we are working with MBIE to clear all allegations.

“Peeling back all of the layers of what is going on here, it is a textbook case of ‘Intentional reputational damage 101’. It is a deliberate, sinister, and highly orchestrated attack which includes anonymous tip-offs, recordings and document leaks. ‘Informants’ orchestrate unfair accusations, bypassing normal processes, and going straight to external authorities. The authorities quite correctly look into the claims. Once that process begins, the claims are leaked to media to create a kangaroo court trial, by specific media, before the target has had a chance to clear themselves through proper process. And even when the claims are proven inaccurate or wrong, the reputational damage is done.

“All this at a time when every hour counts as we try to focus on delivering a great event and Defending the America’s Cup. The timing has been very well considered to take our attention off these vital objectives.

“A huge irony is that one of the points we have been criticised in the interim report is that we have not been forthcoming in providing highly confidential and commercial information. The reason we did not want to provide elements of this information was because we held serious concern about the lack of confidentiality in the process. Clearly we were quite right about that.

“The reason we have been seriously concerned about the media reporting on the initial, incomplete and now “leaked” report is because it will give competitive advantage to our on-water Challengers during this and subsequent campaigns, we have had to take all actions available to protect that information and our competitive position.

“Everyone is asking – what are their motives? We are getting increasingly clear views on this, but we won’t stoop to their level today, our focus needs to be elsewhere right now.

“I want to emphasise, as we have all week, that any outcomes from MBIE’s investigation can and will be worked through to ensure we deliver a great event and a successful campaign. We will work with the Government and project partners to ensure this.

“As a team, all we want to do is defend this America’s Cup successfully in March 2021, and showcase to the world what an amazing country we have through a successfully run and broadcast event.”

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