Court case reveals guns were found on Vava over a decade ago

13 July 2015By Philip Reynolds

A bodyguard who claims to have found AK-47 assault rifles on luxury yacht Vava in 2003 – and handed them into police – has been acquitted of unrelated gun charges in a high profile court case in New Zealand.

The revelation came during the trial of Wayne Tempero, a career bodyguard to internationally renowned stars such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, David Beckham and Elton John, who was facing unrelated firearms charges after modified guns were found in an open safe at his former employer Kim Dotcom’s mansion in 2012.

As part of his defence, Tempero called upon a number of character witnesses to help clear his name.

One of these witnesses was Brad Butterworth, the New Zealand tactician who helped the Alinghi syndicate win the America’s Cup in 2003. Butterworth told the court that Tempero had previously been head of security for the Alinghi consortium, which funded the Swiss America’s Cup bid. It was revealed that Tempero found firearms on Vava – owned by Alinghi boss Ernesto Bertarelli – when she was moored at the viaduct in Auckland harbour and handed them in to police.

Luxury yacht Vava

“I went to the police and said, we’ve got these fully-automatic weapons which they didn’t know about, and they took them away for destruction,” Tempero said.

There is no suggestion that anyone involved with Vava knew about the guns or has done anything illegal.

The court was told that the weapons had originally been stored on 47.03m Feadship Vava as it made its way from Europe to New Zealand for the 2003 America’s Cup. In particular, the court heard, the weapons were kept on board to guard against pirates as the motor yacht made her way through the Red Sea and off the east coast of Africa.

Tempero’s legal team cited his subsequent handing in of the weapons as evidence of his responsible attitude towards firearms.

Auckland District Court agreed and acquitted him of the unrelated charges concerning the 2012 raid on Mr Dotcom’s mansion.

The case does, however, raise questions of what security measures the owners and crew of superyachts take in terms of weaponry and what are the legal implications on the possession of firearms within different international jurisdictions.