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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ Seattle's OneWorld Challenge questioned a key witness Saturday as hearings began in a case that could lead to the team's dismissal from the America's Cup.

OneWorld Challenge, backed by billionaires Craig McCaw and Paul Allen, is accused of stealing and using design information from Team New Zealand, Italy's Prada and 1999 challenger America True.

OneWorld lawyer Hall Baetz questioned Sean Reeves for four hours. Baetz chided Reeves about his assertion that he did not try to sell OneWorld's design information to three other teams despite their sworn testimony that he did.

Reeves was asked whether he expected his word to be accepted by the arbitration panel over the large group that disputes his claims.

``Absolutely,'' Reeves said. ``I don't care if there are 1,000 affidavits. I stand by my testimony.''

Baetz continued: ``By making this assertion before this panel, you are calling these people liars.''

Reeves responded: ``Some of these people are my personal friends. To answer your question, they are liars, Mr. Baetz.''

OneWorld has advanced to the semifinals of yachting's showcase event. The winner of the Louis Vitton Challenge Cup will face Team New Zealand in the finals in February.

In September, a federal court in Seattle found Reeves breached terms of his employment by OneWorld by attempting to sell design information to its rivals. It awarded damages against Reeves amounting to more than $500,000.

While serving as OneWorld's operations manager, Reeves was in charge of recruiting sailors, designers and technical staff from other syndicates. He recruited Laurie Davidson, the designer of New Zealand's Cup-winning yachts two years ago.

Reeves, employed as a rules adviser by Team New Zealand from 1994-00, said in a June affidavit for Team New Zealand that Davidson told him he intended to include line drawings of Team New Zealand's Cup-winning yacht NZL-60 among a package of eight original designs commissioned by OneWorld for $1.5 million.

OneWorld has previously admitted to the panel that it possessed confidential information belonging to other teams but denied using that information in its own design process. The panel penalized OneWorld one competition point and fined it $13,500.

The hearing will continue Sunday at Northern Club, which was built in 1841 _ 10 years before the first America's Cup race.