7 Jan 2009

Jail sentences in French Polynesia over fatal 2003 shipping accident

11:45 am on 7 January 2009

A court in French Polynesia has given jail terms to the leaders of the GIP intervention force over a fatal shipping accident in 2003.

The Tahiti Nui IV sank off Rimitara, killing seven sailors, with those responsible for the GIP's vessel now found guilty of involuntary homicide.

The Papeete court sentenced the then head of the GIP, Leonard Puputauki, to five years in prison, with two years of the sentence being suspended.

He was also fined 56,000 US dollars.

His fellow leader, Yannick Boosie, was sentenced to three years in prison, with two years of the term being suspended.

Two other men were given suspended 18-month jail sentences following a three-day trial in November.

The lawyer for one of the victims has told local radio that he will seek compensation for the family in a separate civil case.

The defence lawyer expressed disappointment at the severity of the sentence and expects that the verdict will be appealed.

At the centre of the trial was the accusation that the vessel was poorly maintained and the accident could have been prevented.

14 people survived and were rescued by helicopter after they spent up to eight hours in the water.