'Deliberate, sinister' attack on Team NZ: Dalton

Grant Dalton. Photo: Getty Images
Grant Dalton. Photo: Getty Images
Team New Zealand's Grant Dalton has spoken out after what he calls a "highly orchestrated" attack on the integrity and credibility of the sailing syndicate.

He said the attack has come from 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 [Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment] to clear all allegations."

Dalton's comments came as Team New Zealand and America's Cup Events Ltd were granted an interim High Court injunction to prevent the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB from publishing details of a Crown-commissioned report into the spending of public money.

NZME, owner of the Herald and ZB, is fighting the gagging order and is due in court next week.

Team New Zealand and America's Cup organisers are at the centre of an inquiry commissioned by the Crown over the spending of public money, including allegations of a "reclassified" $3 million loan and revelations the team was scammed into paying funds into a Hungarian bank account.

The Government has now stopped any further payments to America's Cup organisers as it investigates claims over the spending of public money.

"Peeling back all of the layers of what is going on here, it is a textbook case of 'Intentional reputational damage 101'," said Dalton in a statement.

"It is a deliberate, sinister, and highly orchestrated attack which includes anonymous tip-offs, recordings and document leaks."

NZ Herald graphic.
NZ Herald graphic.
He said authorities were right to look into the claims.

However, he added the process resulted in claims being leaked to the media which has created a "kangaroo court trial".

Dalton said he fears even if the claims are proven inaccurate or wrong the reputational damage will already have been done at a vital time of the campaign.

"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."

Dalton said there had been criticisms the team hadn't been forthcoming in providing some sensitive information but that was because there were concerns about the lack of confidentiality which would give challengers a competitive advantage on the water.

"We have had to take all actions available to protect that information and our competitive position."

"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."

He said his focus was now on defending the cup. "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."

MBIE said $40 million has been set aside for the event fee. To date, $29 million has been paid to ACE (America's Cup Events) 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)," said Iain Cossar, general manager tourism for MBIE.

"This will be revisited pending the outcome of the process."

Dalton confirmed earlier in the week that the team lost a seven-figure amount, but said that it was the victim of an international scam. He said no public money was lost in the scam.

A confidential June 22 letter written by MBIE and the Auckland Council obtained by the Herald reveals allegations around the handling of public money; the operation of the Cup itself and worries about public safety. It also lifts the lid on officials' concerns that the event organisers, ACE and Team NZ, are in breach of obligations.

NZ Police confirmed this week that the Auckland City Financial Crime Unit was investigating the scam with the help of officers based in Europe and Hungarian authorities, after receiving a report in December.



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