Former private secretary to Māori King pleads guilty to fraud

6:40 pm on 16 December 2019

The former private secretary to the Māori King has pleaded guilty to six charges of fraud which include taking over $27,000 for a gastric bypass.

Rangi Whakaruru, Principal Private Secretary to Kingii Tuheitia

Rangi Whakaruru, former private secretary to Kingi Tūheitia Photo: Radio NZ / Andrew McRae

Te Rangihiroa Whakaruru, 56, pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining by deception, and one charge of supplying false or misleading information in Auckland District Court today.

One of the charges of deception was for a $27,650 gastric bypass surgery that Whakaruru paid for by including it in an invoice for King Tūheitia's own legitimate health costs.

Another charge of deception was for the purchase of a trailer in 2015, which he invoiced for higher than the original amount to obtain $2875 that he was not entitled to.

That money was obtained from The Ururangi Trust, set up to provide financial support to the office of the Māori King.

The Trust receives funding from the iwi Waikato-Tainui.

Whakaruru also charged three invoices for medical procedures performed on the King at Mercy Ascot hospital at a total cost of $80,263.

But those medical procedures in fact did not cost anything as they were done at Auckland Hospital under the public health system.

King Tūheitia's former spokesperson Tuku Morgan wrote a letter in August last year claiming that the Serious Fraud Investigation into The Ururangi Trust was in relation to Whakaruru.

While he'd had long held suspicions about how the bypass was paid for, he wasn't prepared for the scale of Whakaruru's fraudulent activities that were laid out in court today.

"It is pretty difficult to come to grips with the magnitude of what Rangi did and the kind of deceptive behaviour that he used to secure the tribal funding.

"The consequential affect is something that the tribe and the Kiingitanga movement have to deal with right now and the trampling of our mana, the loss of mana and integrity and respect because he was the face of the king... and he betrayed all of us."

Morgan said he wanted Waikato-Tainui to restrict funding to the King's office to just his salary to ensure that "any future incidents like this will never happen again".

In a statement Waikato-Tainui said it had ceased funding of The Ururangi Trust, but it would not be making any further comment as the matter was still before the courts.

Whakaruru will be sentenced on 24 April.