Fake Tahitian prince stole HK$129m from Australian health department
Agence France-Presse in Brisbane, Australia
A man who led a playboy lifestyle while claiming to be a Tahitian prince pleaded guilty yesterday to embezzling A$16 million (HK$129 million) from an Australian health department.
New Zealand-born Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, admitted eight offences including aggravated fraud as an employee and forgery in the Brisbane District Court. He was jailed for 14 years.
The charges relate to the 37-year-old defrauding the state government when he worked for Queensland Health between 2007 and 2011.
"The funds diverted by [Morehu-Barlow] were public monies earmarked … to support charities and other community groups," prosecutor Todd Fuller told the court, The Courier-Mail reported.
"The money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle … [for a so-called] Tahitian prince forced to work to gain his [royal] inheritance."
The court heard that Morehu-Barlow regularly signed bank documents using the letters HRH, which is short for his royal highness.
When he was arrested in 2011, police found a trove of luxury goods, including a fake crown, in his exclusive waterfront apartment, allegedly funded by his theft.
Many of the hundreds of items seized were auctioned earlier this month, including a life-size horse lamp, a Hermes saddle, a Chanel wristwatch and a Louis Vuitton surf board.