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The New South Wales’ club lobby is using emails between whistleblower Troy Stolz and journalists at five major media outlets to argue he waged a campaign to “tarnish” its reputation with confidential information about its alleged failures to comply with laws designed to prevent money laundering and terror financing, according to court documents.

Photograph: Reuters/Alamy © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Reuters/Alamy

ClubsNSW is suing Stolz, a former employee, over his handling of internal documents, including a series of documents he sent to journalists.

A statement of claim filed in the federal court show ClubsNSW is relying on a series of email exchanges Stolz had with individual journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, 60 Minutes, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Daily Telegraph in 2020. The emails being used by ClubsNSW include correspondence with the investigative journalist Kate McClymont, of Nine newspapers.

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The clubs lobby said the emails show Stolz sent the journalists confidential documents about its alleged compliance with anti-money laundering and counter terror financing laws.

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The ABC and Sydney Morning Herald later published stories alleging that 95% of NSW clubs were failing to comply with the laws.

In its statement of claim, ClubsNSW allege the confidential documents were used for an improper purpose, namely to “cause determine [sic] to ClubsNSW, by tarnishing the public reputation of ClubsNSW and its member clubs through the public disclosure of confidential information about their alleged AML/CTF compliance”.

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The emails to journalists, ClubNSW alleges, were designed to ensure the recipients made the confidential documents “public, or otherwise report[ed] publicly on those documents or that information”.

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ClubsNSW said the documents were its property, that Stolz had signed an agreement to maintain the confidentiality of information he obtained during employment, and that “he owed contractual and equitable duties to ClubsNSW to keep the documents and their contents confidential”.

The statement of claim, the document which sets out ClubsNSW’s case, was filed late last month. The case has been ongoing since April 2020.

ClubsNSW also allege Stolz sent a series of confidential documents to his personal account in the year before he left the organisation.

They allege documents were sent to ClubsNSW’s competitors, who were also providing anti-money laundering and counter terror financing services, including presentations, templates, prospective customer lists, internal correspondence, training memorandums and a board paper. Stolz did not return documents to ClubsNSW when he resigned in September 2019, the court documents allege.

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“The documents and information retained by Troy Stolz in breach of the Employment Contract and Confidentiality Agreement included a confidential ClubsNSW board paper concerning alleged ATUCMF compliance by member clubs dated 27 May 2019 (the Board Paper),” the statement of claim said.

ClubsNSW also alleges Stolz had discussed setting up his own business offering anti-money laundering and counter terror financing services, and that he used the information while working for other consultancies working in the same field.

Stolz is not relying on a defence under Australia’s whistleblowing laws, the public interest disclosure act, though his actions in blowing the whistle have been hailed as “brave” in federal parliament, including by crossbencher Andrew Wilkie. Stolz has indicated he will be defending the claim, but has yet to file details.

Stolz has been restricted in the way he can comment about the case.

The federal court in November ordered Stolz be restrained from making public statements that are calculated to “intimidate, harass, or otherwise bring improper pressure” on ClubsNSW in relation to the case.

The case continues before the federal court.

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