7 Jul 2009

French Polynesian judges prolong jailing of Flosse secretary

12:30 pm on 7 July 2009

Investigating judges in French Polynesia have refused to release the long-time personal secretary of the veteran politician and current French senator, Gaston Flosse, who has been jailed since last week as part of a fraud probe involving the state-owned OPT telecommunications company.

Melba Ortas was briefly heard this morning but a request for her to be freed from Nuutania jail was rejected.

Last week, her family demonstrated outside the Papeete court asking for her immediate release from prison where she has been held with several high profile individuals, including the former OPT head and Air Tahiti Nui boss, Geffry Salmon, and a French advertising executive, Hubert Haddad.

Meanwhile, the Nouvelles de Tahiti has downplayed the threat of a defamation suit by Mr Flosse, saying his claim of there being a media campaign against him is not accompanied by a formal denial of the accuracy of the information printed in paper.

The paper reported that over a 12-year period until 2005, Mr Haddad regularly gave Mr Flosse money and wine amounting to 1.7 million US dollars.

Prosecutors have now asked for the French senate to lift his immunity for him to be questioned.