Māori King's former private secretary avoids jail after committing fraud to fund gastric bypass surgery

A former private secretary to the Māori King who had a gastric bypass surgery paid for by deceiving Waikato Tainui has been sentenced to home detention on fraud charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

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Te Rangihiroa Whakaruru, 57, was ordered to serve home detention for embezzling funds to pay for his weight loss surgery. Source: 1 NEWS

Te Rangihiroa Whakaruru, 57, appeared in the Auckland District Court after pleading guilty in December to five charges of obtaining by deception and one of supplying false or misleading information at formal interviews with the SFO in 2019.

Judge Ema Aitken outlined the circumstances of the offending.

Mr Whakaruru asked Mercy Hospital in Auckland to issue an invoice to a charitable trust linked with King Tuheitia even though it was Mr Whakaruru who had stomach surgery in 2016.

Unknowingly, Waikato Tainui had signed off on extra funding for health services for King Tuheitia during that period, who was well known to suffer from ill health. Eventually, he would undergo a kidney transplant operation.

Judge Aitken said that the offending was "clearly premeditated" as Whakaruru relied on his mana, standing and his knowledge of the king's health.

She told Whakaruru that the breach was gross "not through need but potentially through greed".

He was staring down the barrel of a jail sentence but Judge Aitken said that it made no sense to send a 57-year-old to jail.

Whakaruru was sentenced to 12 months home detention and must serve 300 hours of community service.

An order for reparations of $110,788 was also made plus an additional amount of $5000 to Waikato Tainui for the costs incured to deal with "the fallout" of the offending.