A damning report into a trust run out of the office of the Māori King has revealed alleged widespread misappropriation by a now-convicted fraudster, including how he funnelled charity cash and first-class travel to family members.
A charities services investigation into Ururangi Trust - a Tainui-funded charity set up to manage the office of King Tūheitia - began in August 2017, but details have only recently been released to the Herald under the Official Information Act after the probe was overtaken by a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) prosecution.
In December, Rangi Whakaruru pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to five charges laid by the SFO of obtaining by deception, and another of lying to investigators. The convictions largely centred on Whakaruru's machinations in getting Tainui to pay $27,000 for his private stomach-stapling surgery by claiming the hospital bill was for the King's treatment.
Whakaruru is scheduled to be sentenced at a hearing at the Auckland District Court on April 24.
The charities service report - referred to Police and the SFO in April 2018 - details a wider range of alleged offending than canvassed at court, including alleged payments made to Whakaruru's son and alleged steps taken to protect witnesses over what were described as "genuine fears for physical harm or threats to their lives" from the disgraced right-hand man to the King.
Whakaruru and his lawyer Guyon Foley did not respond to Herald requests for comment.
Whakaruru, who the Court heard has no prior appearances at his guilty plea in December, was said in the report to have Mongrel Mob connections and had his firearms licence revoked by police in 2012 over "multiple domestic incidents".
In 2000 he was stood down from fronting a TVNZ anti-domestic violence campaign after allegations he had been abusive in previous relationships.
The report said Whakaruru - variously described as Ururangi's CEO and executive manager, and the King's private secretary and principal advisor - had worked in his role since July 2011 was paid an annual salary of $250,000, topped up with a $35,000 bonus in 2017.
The report found evidence of what it described as "a number of illegal schemes Whakaruru is running" at the office of the King.
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These included employing Te Arawi Whakaruru - his son with ex-partner and then-Ururangi trustee Helen Kotua - as an events co-ordinator despite investigators finding "he does little in the space" and was paid "for work that is never actually undertaken".
The report notes Te Arawi had set up a company, TMW Legit, and found "multiple suspicious transactions including large numbers of credit card transactions being completed by Whakaruru ... carried out in the early hours of the morning" transferring money from charity accounts to those of TMW Legit.
Te Arawi did not respond to Herald enquiries, but his online resume shows he described himself as having been employed at Ururangi from July 2012 until November 2017. Following the conclusion of the Charities Service investigation, in June 2018 he resumed working for the King, this time as a Taonga Archivist.
Other alleged family-based spending by Whakaruru identified in the report included evidence Ururangi paid for first-class flights to Taiwan for his daughter to be part of a delegation to Taiwan.
The charities service report was largely completed in mid-2018 and followed a similar investigation in 2015 that saw Ururangi given a formal warning following profligate spending of charitable funds. Likely formal sanction from the charities service was pre-empted by Ururangi voluntarily deregistering in June 2018.
Following deregistration, Sir Wira Gardiner was drafted in by Tainui to serve as chair of a new entity set up to manage the King's affairs - non-charity Kaitiaki Guardian Services. In November Gardiner was joined as trustee of KGS by controversial former police boss Clint Rickards.
Whakaruru continued to remain employed in the office of the King while under SFO investigation, including travelling in May 2019 to Rome with Tūheitia to meet Pope Francis. It is unclear when, or if, his employment at the King's office ended.
Gardiner did not respond to Herald requests for comment.