7 Oct 2005

Former French Polynesian president defiant in atoll sale probe

5:16 pm on 7 October 2005

French Polynesia's opposition politician, Gaston Flosse, is refusing to be questioned by police investigators sent from Paris who probe the circumstances surrounding the purchase of an atoll in 2002.

Mr Flosse, who is the territory's member of the French senate, objects to the investigation procedure.

He says he will submit to questioning by an investigative judge but not by the police.

In protests at the judicial action, most assembly members of his Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party have boycotted today's sitting.

The probe relates to Anuanuraro atoll which was bought from the territory's leading pearl producer, Robert Wan, with taxpayers' funds for 9 million US dollars which has been described as five times its market value.

Among those investigated are Mr Flosse's son-in-law and former vice president, Edouard Fritch.

Mr Flosse's lawyer has told a news conference that he rejects the idea of personal enrichment as a result of the purchase.

And he says paying a substantial sum for an atoll can in no case be a breach of the law.