19 Oct 2010

OPT trial opens in French Polynesia

12:59 pm on 19 October 2010

The trial opens in Tahiti this week of the 16 people alleged to have misused funds of French Polynesia's OPT telecommunications company.

A two-year probe focussed on a former government minister, Emile Vernaudon, who as chairman of the OPT board was found to have misspent 1.4 million US dollars between 2004 and 2006.

The investigation followed a check by the accounts office in 2007 which found massive irregularities to the benefit of Mr Vernaudon and his political grouping.

Mr Vernaudon was imprisoned for several months as part of the investigation and made legal history in 2008 by becoming the first person under French jurisdiction to be elected mayor while in jail.

If found guilty, he could face a maximum jail sentence of ten years and be banned from holding a public office for five years.