Sentencing delayed for Māori King's adviser Rangi Whakaruru on fraud charges
The former private secretary to the Māori King will wait until another day to learn his fate after admitting fraud charges.
Rangi Whakaruru was due to be sentenced today in the Auckland District Court, however, the hearing was adjourned yesterday afternoon.
The 56-year-old, who was a close confidant and had been Māori King Tūheitia Paki's private secretary since 2009, is now due to be sentenced on October 14.
Last December, he pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining by deception and one of lying to Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigators.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
A sentencing hearing had initially been scheduled for April 24, but this was postponed as the courts dealt with Covid-19 restrictions.
He is currently on bail.
Whakaruru's offending saw him misusing the King's chequebook and arranging the manufacture of false invoices for personal gain.
It also included getting Waikato-Tainui's chief executive to sign-off and pay for a private gastric band surgery, and was later claimed a medical procedure had actually been performed on King Tūheitia.
Court documents released to the Herald show Whakaruru was admitted to MercyAscot hospital in Epsom for the surgery on May 11, 2016 and discharged five days later. The procedure cost $27,650.
Whakaruru's executive assistant had booked many of the appointments at MercyAscot to attend in the lead-up to the surgery - he told her he had ill health and doctors believed it was stomach cancer.
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Also known as Rangi Wallace, Whakaruru had occupied the roles of general manager and/or chief executive officer of Ururangi Trust, which was established to provide financial support to the office of the King.
Just prior to his surgery, Whakaruru prepared a confidential internal memorandum seeking $200,000 for the Ururangi Trust to cover the forecasted medical treatments and costs of the King, court documents read.Advertisement Advertise with NZME. Rangi Whakaruru, left, at Auckland Airport with King Tūheitia Paki, middle in March 2018. Photo / Peter Meecham
The memorandum claimed the King's "Primary Advisors & Medical Team" included the CEO of Mercy Hospital Group, even though neither the CEO nor any of the hospitals in the Mercy Group were involved in medical treatment for the Māori King at that time.
The surgery was billed back to the Ururangi Trust before Whakaruru instructed the Mercy Group CEO to change the details of the first invoice so his name and the details of his procedure were removed.
Whakaruru then asked his executive assistant to draft a breakdown of costs of the Māori King's health and medical bill for April, May and June. The $27,650 was claimed to have included procedures such as vascular therapy and consultation, ultrasound, a CT scan, urinary tract monitoring, and peripheral angioplasty.STAY IN THE KNOW. SIGN UP TO OUR DAILY NEWSLETTERS HERE.
He also ordered the creation of three invoices in late 2016, totalling $80,263, purportedly for medical care for King Tūheitia and his family at MercyAscot hospital. Whakaruru later submitted these to then-Waikato-Tainui chief executive Parekawhia McLean for payment.
After receiving an invoice, court papers show, Whakaruru sent an email to his executive assistant stating: "Excellent. Print two copies and please keep this strictly to yourself and I as I cannot compromise anyone else other than the hospital and I."
When misusing the King's personal chequebook, he wrote a cash cheque for $14,812 and signed it - using his own signature - on about December 20, 2016.Advertisement Advertise with NZME.
The cheque was deposited into the Whakaruru's personal account the same day it was written before $14,800 was then transferred from his account back into the Māori King's account.Rangi Whakaruru, pictured in 2012. Photo / NZ Herald
Another charge related to a doctored invoice for a trailer he purchased in 2015 and later sought reimbursement for so he could pocket the difference of $2875, court documents read.
Whakaruru also admitted to lying to SFO investigators in 2019 after he repeatedly insisted that he had paid for his gastric bypass operation himself.
In 2017, the Herald first reported the alleged misspending at Ururangi, which was registered as a charitable trust under the Charities Act 2005 between September 2008 and June 2018.
A Charities Services investigation into Ururangi then led to the case being referred the case to the SFO which raided the King's office in 2018.