27 Feb 2006

Senior opposition figures in French Polynesian could have to repay funds

7:38 am on 27 February 2006

Top members of the French Polynesian opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira party may be forced to reimburse a total of three million US dollars in public funds.

The accounts office in Papeete has found they accepted money made available by the former president, Gaston Flosse, while drawing a salary as legislators.

Mr Flosse's lawyer has defended the payments, saying they were for them to provide technical and financial support to various municipalities.

Among those implicated are the mayor of Pirae and former vice president, Edouard Fritch, and the mayor of Papeete, Michel Buillard, who is one of the territory's two members of the French assembly.

The Tahitipresse news agency reports that the accounts office says the payments, which were meant to be be made in secret, were also given to union leaders supposedly to foster dialogue.

A ruling is expected at the end of next month.


ex tahitipresse

French Polynesia's Aia Api party has held its annual congress and confirmed its policy of pursuing the territory's autonomy within the French republic.

The party is part of the ruling coalition and led by the telecommunications minister, Emile Vernaudon, who was given a suspended jail sentence for corruption last month.

He addressed thousands of supporters at yesterday's (Sunday NZ time) gathering which was also attended by former ministers and the chief of staff of the French Polynesian presidency, Patrick Leboucher.

Mr Leboucher said he was not representing the president officially but acknowledged the role of the Aia Api Party in giving the pro-independence Tavini party the support for it to be in government.

At the Congress, the minister for medium and small enterprises, Hiro Tefaarere, criticised the vice president, Jacqui Drollet, but rejected claims that he is ready to back a motion of no-confidence.