Investigation clears Team NZ of any misuse of public funds

An audit by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has cleared Team NZ and the company set up to deliver the America's Cup of inappropriate use of public funds.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton. Source: 1 NEWS

The report by forensic accountants Beattie Varley found no evidence of a loan from America's Cup Events Limited (ACE) to Team NZ (ETNZ), or fraud by either entity, and “no financial impropriety of any nature”.

It also found Grant Dalton, CEO of both Team NZ and ACE, and other personnel did not use public funds for personal expenses.

Sir Stephen Tindall, Chairman of Team NZ, said he was “pleased to have this behind us”.

“ACE can now focus on putting on a great spectacle, and ETNZ on keeping the Cup in New Zealand.”

Dalton said Team NZ were vindicated by the audit's findings.

"It's been really disruptive for the good people who work on the event, because they just didn't know what to think of these allegations," he told 1 NEWS.

"Of course, we denied them. As they've learnt over the recent weeks, there was obviously nothing to it, and they've got more settled and they can feel confident again.

"They're good people. They didn't deserve this either."

He said the event would go on as scheduled.

In late June, an Auckland-based consultancy firm was fired from helping set up the event after Team New Zealand accused its employees of sharing confidential information.

The alleged two informants were accused of leaking information to a government department. 

Team NZ have since launched legal proceedings in the High Court against the two people.

1 NEWS understands it's allegations from those people that triggered an investigation by MBIE in July. 

Investigators were "extremely concerned" how the $40 million of public money that was set aside to run the event had been used. In particular, there was concern over $3 million from the event budget which was transferred to a Hungarian bank account.

The Beattie Varley audit today, which was commissioned by MBIE and Auckland Council, concluded the incident was a scam and that any loss resulting from it wouldn't be paid for by the Crown.

The report also said the investigation occurred after MBIE and Auckland Council were told by “a whistleblower” of claims relating to the organisation of the event. 

At the time, Dalton said there had been no misappropriation of public money. He said when some of the money was paid to a European company to set up as a host broadcaster, hackers changed the bank account details.

Police also confirmed in July it was investigating the alleged hack with Hungarian authorities.

MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain said the report “had raised some concerns around record keeping relating to several historical matters”.

However, she said it was pleasing there was no financial impropriety found. 

Taxpayers and Auckland ratepayers have contributed  $250 million for the campaign and the running of the America’s Cup.

Confidential mediation over design costs

The Beattie Varley report also noted an outstanding contractual disagreement regarding whether the $3 million paid by ACE to Team NZ to cover costs of designing the AC75 boat class could be considered an event cost.

If considered part of the cost of running the event, Crown money will bear its cost. 

Ms Tremain said there was no wrongdoing in regards to the contractual disagreements 

“We look forward to continuing to work constructively together on this matter. ETNZ and ACE have a different view from MBIE on whether the AC36 Event and Class Design Costs should be borne by the event.”

She said the Crown will reinstate investment, and its next payment will be made “once the appropriate contractual deliverables have been met”.

Mediation will now occur in private.

Dalton said: “With the departure of the previous event managers, we have undertaken a thorough review of our personnel and we have the team to deliver on the event. 

“We have engaged experienced and respected senior event professionals to lead the event preparations.”