27 Feb Jonathan Cartu Announces: Fake Tahitian prince who took $16m meant for charity
Fake Tahitian prince Joel Morehu-Barlow, who was imprisoned over the theft of $16m from Queensland Health, has been released from jail and deported to New Zealand.
Morehu-Barlow, now 44, pleaded guilty to five fraud and three drug offences in 2013 after redirecting money meant for charity into his own accounts. He was jailed for 14 years with a non-parole period of five.
Television footage aired on Friday showed Morehu-Barlow flanked by Australian Border Force officers being escorted to an airport, where he was put on a Qantas plane bound for Auckland shortly after his release on Thursday. It is believed he is now in the company of his mother in Auckland
Born Hohepa Hikairo “Joel” Morehu-Barlow, he used his position as a middle manager for Queensland Health to siphon off funds between October 2007 and December 2011. It allowed him to live a lavish lifestyle that included the purchase of an exclusive waterfront apartment in inner Brisbane.
He had the initials HRH (His Royal Highness) on a black American Express credit card he used at the chic Brisbane nightclub Cloudland, where he drank top-of-the-range champagne and tipped waiters $1,000, according to former staff members.
His cash-splashing habits were so outlandish that one Fortitude Valley businessman described it as a Clayton’s economic stimulus package for Brisbane’s restaurants, pubs and retailers.
His reign as a free-spending ‘‘royal’’ was brought undone in December 2011 when he attempted to siphon off $11m in a single transaction. He had previously taken about $5m.
When police searched his residence, they found hundreds of luxury items including a life-size horse lamp, saddle, a Chanel watch and a Louis Vuitton surfboard, which were seized and sold at auction. Overall about $11.9m was recovered from the sale of items, including the apartment.
During one of his court proceedings, Morehu-Barlow’s barrister, David Shepherd, told the court that even his client knew his fraud would be exposed. “It was a simple fraud which was bound to be discovered.”