Monday, December 12, 2011
Queensland's health authority has been shut down after a Maori member of staff passing himself off as a Tahitian prince made off with $AUS16 million to support a lavish lifestyle
Joel Barlow, or Hohepa Morehu-Barlow, a public servant on a salary of $100,000 a year, was arrested in Queensland after siphoning the sum over three years, including a final flurry of $AUS11 million in the couple of weeks. Police said that the fraud was one of the biggest in Australian history. Barlow, originally from New Zealand, lived a playboy lifestyle in Brisbane, frequently claiming to be a Tahitian prince as he cavorted with celebrities and decked out a new waterside $AUS5.7 million home. The home had a garage for his three Mercedes Benzes plus a wine cellar, grand piano and pontoon on Brisbane River. His claims to own a local perfumery were even swallowed by the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, who repeated the claim during efforts to track him down. While Brisbane friends described Barlow in the local media as the life of the high-society party, his family in New Zealand scoffed at his claims to be a prince. "He's a naughty boy if he has done that," his aunt, Josie Boldy, said. "But he's still my whanau [Maori for family]". Barlow, a finance manager at Queensland Health, embezzled funds that he was supposed to have transferred to charities and non-profit organizations. He was arrested at after returning to his riverside house following two days on the run. He has since been admitted to hospital. Bligh said that Queensland Health had failed and would be dismantled from July 2012. "Queenslanders can no longer tolerate the sick administrative performance of this mammoth organization," she said. In 2005, Queensland Health was exposed for failing to conduct adequate checks on Jayant Patel, the so-called "Dr Death", an Indian-trained surgeon whose incompetence was linked to as many as 87 deaths. In 2010, Jayant was sentenced to seven years in jail. Bligh said that Queensland authorities had seized assets of Barlow worth about $AUS12 million. But the government was under fire after it emerged that state authorities received a complaint about him in 2010, including his fraud and his background in New Zealand.