More investors accuse evangelist of con

By Derek Cheng

Police are urging anyone who has invested money based on false promises to contact them, as fresh allegations emerge around alleged con-artist Kawana Morehu.

Several people approached the Herald yesterday about investments with Mr Morehu - some up to $60,000 - which had come to nothing.

It was also claimed that Mr Morehu, a self-proclaimed evangelist and missionary worker, posed as a representative of the Vatican in an attempt to buy million-dollar properties in Auckland. Mr Morehu denies any wrongdoing.

The police confirmed yesterday they knew of Mr Morehu but he was not being investigated.

"If people make bad investments, that's a pity. On the other hand, if they made an investment on promises that were clearly untrue, then we would look at that seriously," said Detective Sergeant Richard Kapa, from the Auckland Fraud Squad.

Yesterday, two investors with Mr Morehu said they had invested $55,000 and $10,000 respectively but had no idea what happened to the money.

It is alleged Mr Morehu tries to develop a common bond with his investors - through being Maori, Christian, or both. His investment schemes include providing him with funds to be used to collect money owed to him offshore, including Nigeria, where he claims to have worked for the Government in the 1980s.

Mr Morehu said most of his investors could expect to be paid out "in the next few days".

"Payment will still come, we have to wait till we get paid. We've [got] lawsuits and everything against governments to get paid too."

When asked which governments, he said: "We can't give any information out.

"I know who we owe money to. Nobody can just jump on the bandwagon and tell you all kinds of stories. Unless they validate it with my attorney, they don't get paid. That's the bottom line."

Responding to claims he was a con man, he said: "They all call me a con artist but I've proved them all wrong. I'm an honest Christian and it's the media that manipulates us."

Among fresh claims was a couple who had invested $50,000 to $60,000 of their retirement funds with Mr Morehu. The couple's banker helped them with a refinancing package when they were financially ruined.

"They had worked for Fisher & Paykel for 20-odd years," said the banker, who wanted to protect the identity of the customers and his employer. "They took out all their retirement savings and gave it all to him. It was the same [scheme], [accessing] money from overseas, missionary stuff.

"I went to Fair Go but due to confidentiality I couldn't give them any information and the customers didn't want to make a complaint because they were embarrassed."

Real estate agent Peter Coker said Mr Morehu contacted him two years ago about buying a $2.3 million house in St Heliers.

"He said he represented the Vatican and they had millions of dollars to invest around the world. He was tasked with allocating their funds in this part of the world and he needed a base in New Zealand."

He said Mr Morehu had a folder full of letters, faxes and letterheads apparently from the Vatican.

"It had been put together to give a realistic sense that he does have connections with the Vatican.

"He told me some of the funds they were getting were to be used to straighten some of the highways between Wellington and Auckland."

Mr Coker was not surprised when the deposit on the house never came through.

Mr Morehu said he had been asked to represent the Vatican "but I haven't taken it on yet. We deal with 200 countries now so we don't need any more [missionary] work."

Responding to claims he was a liar, he said: "Everybody calls me a liar but they don't know what I do."

However, an Auckland woman, who did not want to be named, said she believed Mr Morehu was an honest man.

He had asked her and her husband for funds to free up money overseas, some in Nigeria.

The woman said they felt no animosity towards him, despite pouring thousands of dollars into a fruitless endeavour.

"I don't believe that he does it purposefully to rip people off. He believes he has money that's owing to him over there."

She would not say how much they had lost, but "it was in the thousands".

The couple had been promised large returns on their investment but "we discovered that it was not real".

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