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America's Cup: Taxpayer money at centre of talks between SFO and senior govt official

The Serious Fraud Office has confirmed it had discussions with a senior government official about the use of taxpayer funding for the America's Cup.

Team New Zealand capsize new America's Cup boat Source: Team New Zealand

It's been almost three months since officials found no evidence of wrongdoing or fraud by Team New Zealand or its event organising arm America's Cup Event.

The SFO and MBIE have confirmed there were discussions between them but neither will comment further.

An investigation of how Team New Zealand spent $25 million of taxpayer money did not look at what happened to just over $4 million of it.

America's Cup Event has today released a series of documents and letters to RNZ, which it says "paint quite a different story than that currently being presented".

"In the face of further defamatory and baseless allegations again being levelled at ETNZ/ACE and its Directors we feel that we must now set the record straight having tried to respect a due process in this saga all year," it said in a statement.

"We have wanted to avoid such a public condemnation of MBIE but given their moves to conceal their totally inappropriate behaviour through this protracted contractual process, we now feel obliged to release a suite of letters addressed to MBIE and Ministers which call MBIE to account for their actions."

With five weeks till racing starts, Team New Zealand chair Sir Stephen Tindall said the directors wanted to set the record straight.

"There's been no communication from the SFO to us whatsoever. For that reason we believe there's no investigation under way or we would have been contacted for sure."

Sir Stephen said he was concerned for the reputation of the team and event.

"This is damaging to both our team and the event and we wanted to make sure there was full transparency so we could get on with people understanding there's nothing nefarious going on and we can deliver a really good event."

Team New Zealand has today publicly released letters from July, August and September it sent to senior MBIE officials, the regatta hosts, about the investigation into the use of public funds.

The letters detail Team New Zealand's concerns about the process of the MBIE-led investigation, including months of secrecy surrounding the probe into its finances.

Sir Stephen said it appeared to be a covert operation.

"They were collecting the information from the informants who were secretly recording our meetings and were providing them with all sorts of documentation from the events and from our board meetings," he said.

"We didn't know what was going on and then we found out this had been happening for the last five months. We just could not understand that as partners in the event we weren't consulted earlier on and if we had been we could have nipped this whole thing in the bud."

It has asked the Ombudsman and State Services Commissioner to conduct an independent review of the investigation.

"We would like to think that somebody else takes a close look at this, whether it's the public services commission or the ombudsman and investigates it and it clears us," Sir Stephen said.

"The process has been absolutely torturous and we felt like we've been treated incredibly badly there's a breach of natural justice and a breach of good faith."

rnz.co.nz