21 Mar 2007

French Polynesian politician gets suspended jail sentence for corruption

1:47 pm on 21 March 2007

The leader of French Polynesia's Aia Api Party, Emile Vernaudon, has been given an 18-month suspended prison sentence for corruption.

The criminal court has also fined Vernaudon 15,000 US dollars and deprived him of his civic rights for five years.

The prosecution had demanded a 30-month sentence for his role in obtaining a land lease nearly two years ago when he was a minister in the former government of Oscar Temaru.

The court found that he was among those approving his lease.

Vernaudon has indicated he will appeal the decision which means that he will retain his seat in the assembly and remain the mayor of Mahina.

Last year, Vernaudon was already given a suspended one-year prison sentence for corruption which means that the period for which he'll lose his civic rights has been doubled to ten years.

He switched political allegiance last year and joined the camp of the Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party which is the dominant force in the current coalition government.

Meanwhile, the French Polynesian assembly has been unable to debate the budget today because of a lack of a quorum.

The opposition stayed away and four members of the ruling coalition were absent, including Emile Vernaudon who was in court.

Another attempt to debate the budget will be made tomorrow.