29 Sep 2005

Two former French Polynesian ministers probed over atoll purchase

1:45 pm on 29 September 2005

The judiciary in French Polynesia has reportedly opened a probe into alleged misuse of public funds by two former government ministers.

The Nouvelles de Tahiti newspaper reports that the probe concerns a land sale authorised by the former vice-president, Edouard Fritch, and the former lands minister, Gaston Tong Sang.

The two bought the atoll of Anuanuraro in 2002 on behalf of the taxpayers from a prominent businessman, Robert Wan, for 9 million US dollars which was five times more than its value.

Mr Wan had bought the atoll to set up a pearl farm more than 20 years ago.

The two ministers served under President Gaston Flosse who is also under investigation in connection with the purchase.

He has justified the purchase by saying he had to protect French Polynesia's heritage from Japanese buyers.