Sailing-America's Cup holders cleared of financial wrongdoing

WELLINGTON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - America's Cup holders Team New Zealand (TNZ) have been cleared of any financial impropriety following an independent audit, the government department in charge of the event said on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) last month halted public funding of America's Cup Events (ACE), the body organising next year's regatta in Auckland, pending the outcome of the audit and investigation.

The probe was launched into ACE after allegations about impropriety were made by people working for the body.

"It was important to work through the audit process, and confirm that there was no financial impropriety or misappropriation of funds," MBIE Chief Executive Carolyn Tremain said in a statement.

TNZ Chief Executive Grant Dalton at the time blamed "informants" for spreading "highly defamatory and inaccurate" allegations about the organisation.

The New Zealand government and Auckland Council have contributed about NZ$250 million ($163.75 million) for the hosting of the event, including infrastructure spending.

MBIE agreed to give about NZ$40 million in funding to ACE, of which about NZ$29m has been paid, according to the audit report.

The 36th America's Cup will start in January with a regatta involving challengers from Italy, Britain and the United States before the winner faces TNZ for the Cup in March.

($1 = 1.5267 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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