6 Oct 2005

Former French Polynesia leader refuses to be questioned over controversial atoll sale

8:57 pm on 6 October 2005

Uncertainty surrounds the possible questioning of French Polynesia's former president, Gaston Flosse, in connection with a probe of a controversial land sale three years ago.

A Tahiti radio station says investigators from Paris will interrogate Mr Flosse tomorrow about his role in the purchase of Anuanuraro atoll from the territory's leading pearl producer, Robert Wan.

The atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago was bought with taxpayers' funds for 9 million US dollars which is seen as five times its market value.

While investigators have questioned Mr Flosse's son-in-law, the former vice-president Edouard Fritch, the former lands minister, Gaston Tong Sang, as well as Mr Wan, Mr Flosse is reported to object to any interrogation.

The French Polynesian government, whose leader Oscar Temaru lodged a complaint about the sale, has issued a statement, saying Mr Flosse claims to be above the law.

The statement says Mr Flosse objects to being questioned by the French officials sent to Tahiti, claiming that as the territory's member of the French senate he can only be submitted to questioning by the judge in charge of the case.