18 Mar 2010

Flosse secretary detention linked to probe into French Polynesian journalist's disappearance

5:17 pm on 18 March 2010

The private secretary of French Polynesia's veteran politician, Gaston Flosse, has been released after being detained for more than 24 hours.

There has been no official comment about the latest detention of Melba Ortas but the two daily Tahiti newspapers have been told by sources that she was questioned in connection with a probe into the 1997 disappearance of a local journalist, Jean-Pascal Couraud.

The investigation into the fate of the journalist was opened more than five years ago and centres on a complaint by his family that he was murdered.

There are allegations that he was kidnapped and drowned off Tahiti by members of the now disbanded GIP militia, which was working for Mr Flosse.

Mr Flosse has said he has never ordered anybody's death.

The newspapers say her latest detention may have been prompted by comments made during her jailing last year when she was held for three months as part of a probe into the so-called OPT affair.

Mrs Ortas was alleged to have picked up an envelope with 12,000 US dollars in cash from an advertising agency in Papeete every month on behalf of Mr Flosse and his party.