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Fake Tahitian prince sentenced to 14 years in jail

The fake prince, who stole almost €13 million, signed documents using the letters HRH, short for His Royal Highness, and also had a fake crown.

The fake prince had, unsurprisingly, a fake crown.
The fake prince had, unsurprisingly, a fake crown.

A MAN WHO led a playboy lifestyle while claiming to be a Tahitian prince was jailed today for 14 years for stealing Aus$16 million (nearly €13 million) from an Australian health department.

New Zealand-born Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, pleaded guilty to eight offences including aggravated fraud as an employee and forgery in the Brisbane District Court.

In sentencing, judge Kerry O’Brien said Morehu-Barlow ran an audacious but uncomplicated scheme in which he diverted funds from a grants scheme he ran to pay for his extravagant lifestyle.

“I cannot ignore the amount of money that’s involved here… the fact that these are public monies,” O’Brien said, The Australian newspaper reported.

The charges against the 37-year-old relate to his defrauding of the state government while he worked as a middle manager 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 Brisbane 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, short for His Royal Highness.

Fake crown

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 black wristwatch and a Louis Vuitton surf board.

The court heard that Morehu-Barlow initially started embezzling small amounts but when this thefts went undetected he increased the sums which he stole from the health minister’s charity fund.

The scheme unravelled in 2011 when he faked an invoice showing that he had paid Aus$11 million (nearly €9 million) to a Queensland university.

A fellow public servant became suspicious and did an internet search which revealed the money went to a company controlled by Morehu-Barlow.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Portugal police ‘seize world’s largest haul of counterfeit euros’ >

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