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A man who led a playboy lifestyle while claiming to be a Tahitian prince pleaded guilty on Tuesday to embezzling Aus$16 million (US$16.6 million) from an Australian health department.
New Zealand-born Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, also known as Joel Barlow, admitted eight offences including aggravated fraud as an employee and forgery in the Brisbane District Court.
The charges relate to the 37-year-old defrauding the state government when he worked for Queensland Health between 2007 and 2011.
“The funds diverted by (Morehu-Barlow) were public monies earmarked... to support charities and other community groups,” prosecutor Todd Fuller told the court, the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported.
“The money was used to fund a lavish lifestyle... (for a so-called) Tahitian prince forced to work to gain his (royal) inheritance.”
The court heard that Morehu-Barlow regularly signed bank documents using the letters HRH, short for His Royal Highness.
When he was arrested in 2011, police found a trove of luxury goods including a fake crown, in his exclusive waterfront apartment, allegedly funded by his theft.
Many of the hundreds of items seized were auctioned earlier this month, including a life-size horse lamp, a Hermes saddle, a Chanel black wristwatch and a Louis Vuitton surf board.
The prosecution is seeking a jail sentence of between 14 and 16 years. - Sapa-AFP