America's Cup 2021: Team New Zealand insiders deny being spies, claim they're whistleblowers

The Kiwi contractors at the centre of Team New Zealand's big spying scandal claim they're whistleblowers, not spies.

The contractors were hired to run next year's America's Cup event and they worked out of the team's headquarters, until they were fired by Team NZ after months of concerns confidential information was being leaked, sources confirmed to Newshub.

Newshub has chosen not to name them since they're claiming to be whistleblowers, but they worked closely alongside Team NZ in their Auckland Viaduct headquarters.

Team NZ manager Grant Dalton tells Newshub he doesn't know exactly what was leaked, who it was leaked to or why.

"That's a million dollar question - can't get past the fact of what's the motive and we can't get past that."

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) said it was conducting an investigation after information on the team's finances was leaked.

MBIE said the motives of those who leaked the information could only be guessed.

"In addition, these people have made highly defamatory and inaccurate allegations regarding financial and structural matters against ACE, ETNZ and its personnel."

American Magic - the New York challenger - arrived in Auckland on Tuesday. Along with Italy's Luna Rosa and Ineos Team UK, they say they had nothing to do with the leak.

"I don't know [if it was one of the other teams]," Dalton says. "I know the other characters just couldn't get there in my own mind."

But when it comes to the America's Cup, there's no such thing as bad publicity, says event historian Tom Ehman says.

"Here we go, the America's Cup is back on and that's good news, when there's a little intrigue and mystery. The bad news is there is something going on internally."