Fake prince Joel Morehu-Barlow due for parole, still owes Queensland Government millions

Morehu-Barlow lived a lavish lifestyle in Brisbane. Photo / Courier Mail
Morehu-Barlow lived a lavish lifestyle in Brisbane. Photo / Courier Mail

At his peak, New Zealand-born Joel Morehu-Barlow lived a life of extravagance.

He owned fancy cars, a A$95,000 television, a life-size replica of a black stallion and a A$5.5 million riverfront apartment. His wardrobe included garments embroidered with the letters HRH and a crown. He was no royal but he played the part well.

When it all came tumbling down in 2011, "His Royal Highness" was hiding in a laundry chute watching detectives rummage through the contents of his Brisbane home. They would later be sold at auction at a fraction of their price, the money to be recouped by the Queensland Government.

Joel Morehu-Barlow was hiding in a laundry chute watching detectives rummage through the contents of his Brisbane home before being arrested. Photo / APNZ
Joel Morehu-Barlow was hiding in a laundry chute watching detectives rummage through the contents of his Brisbane home before being arrested. Photo / APNZ

Morehu-Barlow, who also went by the name Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, had afforded the lavish lifestyle not with funds he had earned through hard work but by defrauding his employer and the Queensland taxpayer to the tune of A$16.69 million.

The scam was the biggest embezzlement of taxpayers' funds in Queensland history and an embarrassment for the then-Anna Bligh Government. Queensland has a new premier in 2016 but Morehu-Barlow's crime still hangs over those running the state.

Morehu-Barlow was sentenced to 14 years in 2013 and is eligible for parole in December.

Morehu-Barlow's A$5.65 million Brisbane apartment, where he was arrested. Photo / Johnston Dixon
Morehu-Barlow's A$5.65 million Brisbane apartment, where he was arrested. Photo / Johnston Dixon

When he gets out, the "fake prince" - Morehu-Barlow, who grew up in Thames, claimed to be Tahitian royalty - will owe A$8.5 million under a court order to recover proceeds of crime.

The Australian reports with interest calculated at A$40,000 a month, Morehu-Barlow will owe A$13.8 million in 10 years time and A$24 million by 2035.

The problem is that Morehu-Barlow has no further assets to go after and therefore no means to repaying the debt. Brisbane lawyer and Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman told The Australian that Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should suspend the disgraced former Queensland Health worker's debt.

"I think they have got to enter into an agreement allowing him to get on with his life," Mr O'Gorman said.

The money Morehu-Barlow stole during his time at Queensland Health had been earmarked for supporting charities and other community groups.

Morehu-Barlow, centre, in police custody in 2011. Photo / Supplied
Morehu-Barlow, centre, in police custody in 2011. Photo / Supplied

He had a history of fleecing finances before he moved to Australia in 2005 and started work at the government department.

He allegedly took A$11 million in a single transaction in November 2011, which raised a red flag and eventually led to his conviction.

Brisbane Times reported in 2013 that Morehu-Barlow lived a difficult childhood in New Zealand. Legal Aid lawyer David Sherphard, appointed to defend Morehu-Barlow when he could not afford a lawyer of his own, said his client's father was a "violent man" who "often beat" his wife and left the children "to fend for themselves, even roaming the street when there was no food."

"Throughout this being the oldest, Morehu-Barlow developed a sense of guilt and shame particularly in relation to the responsibilities for his siblings," Mr Sherphard said.
"Perhaps there was a desire to appear as if he had achieved something."

Morehu-Barlow's only escape was at school, where he was a diligent student. He graduated from Thames High School in 1993 and went on to study at Taranaki Polytechnic and then Wellington's Victoria University before dropping out.

Morehu-Barlow's criminal record began in 1998 when he defrauded his New Zealand-based employer of roughly A$32,000. He was convicted a year later and spent time under house arrest before fleeing to Australia in 2001, to join his sister Kelly Barlow, where he hatched and executed a new plot to defraud taxpayers.

Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg says he does not believe Morehu-Barlow should escape his considerable debts.

"It would be unjust to simply excuse and write off the debt of someone like Joel Barlow who deliberately and deceitfully went out of his way to defraud taxpayers and deprive Queenslanders of much-needed health services," Mr Springborg told The Australian.

- news.com.au

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