Investigators probing alleged financial misappropriation at the office of the Maori King are zeroing in on the alleged actions of one individual.
The Weekend Herald understands Charities Service investigators have begun conducting interviews and requesting documentation as they look into a range of alleged inappropriate expenditure said to involve international travel and medical procedures.
A spokesman for the Charities Service said: "I can confirm we have started a formal investigation into the alleged actions of an individual associated with the Ururangi Trust."
The individual in questions has refused to respond to repeated requests for comment over the past fortnight.
The Ururangi Trust is a charity established to support the Maori King in his role, and is funded by Tainui annually to the tune of $1.6 million.
The probe is attracting concern within Maoridom with a number of senior Tainui figures, unwilling to be publicly named given the sensitivity of the issue, telling the Weekend Herald the alleged actions of an individual cast the Kiingitanga in a bad light and threatened the credibility and economic security of the tribe.
Were the investigation to widen to include payments made by the broader Tainui group, the charitable status of entities holding $940m in net assets could be at risk of deregistration - potentially exposing the tribe to a tax bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Newly-reelected Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, one of the few willing to speak on the record about the investigation, said she was aware of the complaints.
Mahuta said the investigation had created a "high level of anxiety" after a 2015 investigation into lax accountability and misspending saw Ururangi issued with a final warning by the Charities Service.
That previous investigation raised concerns about 114 transactions between 2012 and 2014 totalling $120,691, relating to the purchase of jewellery, clothing and beauty treatments and almost $90,000 in cash withdrawals.
"The transactions are not sporadic or intermittent in nature. They are repetitive, ongoing and consistent," investigators concluded of the personal spending.
Mahuta called for a clean out at Ururangi to restore confidence in the Kiingitanga, and warned failing to take the investigation and the issues seriously was not an option.
"It will continue to erode the credibility of the office of the King."
Ururangi chairman Peter Rogers was curt when contacted yesterday by the Weekend Herald. "I can't comment. I've had no notification, no nothing. I'm going to cease this discussion," he said before hanging up.
Two weeks ago Rogers had confirmed the Charities Service was looking into complaints of financial irregularities affecting the Ururangi Trust and pledged full co-operation with investigators.
Calls to a number of staff at the office of the king this week with detailed questions about the allegations were met with "no comment," "we have a policy not to talk to media" or no response at all.