3 Oct 2005

Police in French Polynesia extend investigation into land purchase

6:42 am on 3 October 2005

A French police investigation into a controversial land purchase in French Polynesia three years ago has been extended to the territory's leading black pearl producer, Robert Wan.

The move was reported in a Tahiti newspaper just days after it was reported that two former ministers of the Gaston Flosse-led government were under investigation for buying the atoll of Anuanuraro in the Tuamotu archipelago from Mr Wan at an inflated price.

The former ministers, Edouard Fritch and Gaston Tong Sang, are alleged to have paid Mr Wan 9 million US dollars which was five times the atoll's value.

The investigation is to establish who benefitted from the transaction which was done with taxpayers' money.

The probe follows a complaint by President Oscar Temaru lodged a year ago at the height of the territory's political crisis.

Mr Fritch is a former vice-president and Gaston Flosse's son-in-law.

Mr Tong Sang was the opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira's presidential candidate in the March election which saw the return of Mr Temaru.