Kiwi 'Tahitian prince' lawyers argue for lighter sentence

By Rae Wilson -
Joel Morehu-Barlow. Photo / Courier Mail
Joel Morehu-Barlow. Photo / Courier Mail

Australian lawyers for fake Tahitian prince - New Zealander Joel Morehu-Barlow - have argued spending millions of embezzled taxpayer dollars on a lavish lifestyle should not have been a sentencing consideration when he was jailed for 14 years.

Barrister David Shepherd, acting for Morehu-Barlow, also argued only $A5 million was lost, that the Queensland Government had been able to recover most of the almost $17 million stolen over the four years the fraudster was working for Queensland Health.

He said, in submitting 14 years jail was manifestly excessive, authorities showed little difference between penalties for fraudulently propping up a business or spending stolen money on unnecessary things or a party lifestyle.

But a Queensland Court of Appeal justice immediately countered the argument, raising the scenario that someone might steal money to buy medication for a sick relative.

Morehu-Barlow made headlines when the taxpayer slush fund he used to buy designer clothes, expensive liquor and all the "friends" he wanted was uncovered.

He was outed as a pretentious Kiwi bureaucrat who perpetrated an outrageous fraud to fund his lavish lifestyle as one of Brisbane's fashionable high-flyers.

Crown prosecutor Michael Byrne said how the money was spent should have been considered.

He said this was "more than a spontaneous aberration", that the fraudster used his intimate knowledge of the department and government to his own advantage.

Mr Byrne said Morehu-Barlow made 62 fraudulent transactions, fraudulently used ministerial correspondence and when he changed jobs, kept some responsibilities under his wing so he could continue the fraud.

He said it was wrong to argue only $A5 million was lost, because the Queensland public was deprived of that $A12 million for a period of time.

"Public funds are not a bottomless pot," he said.

"There must have been people who have lost out. The reason for the offending here was selfish. It was not to provide chemotherapy treatment for a relative who was ill.

"It was not a case of Robin Hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor. It was a man who wanted to live a lavish lifestyle, to drive a Porsche motor vehicle and to live in a multi-million unit."

Mr Byrne said this case directly contrasted to those who came before the court with failing businesses who tried to rob Peter to pay Paul to keep the business going.

"There was no robbing of Peter and it was all paying Paul in this case," he said.

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision.

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