19 Jan 2011

12 people sentenced in French Polynesia OPT case

6:28 pm on 19 January 2011

The criminal court in French Polynesia has sentenced 12 people for the abuse of funds at the state-owned telecommunications company, OPT.

A former government minister and chairman of the OPT board, Emile Vernaudon, was jailed for five years for having overseen the misspending of 1.4 million US dollars between 2004 and 2006.

Another former top OPT official, Alphonse Teriierooiterai, was also sentenced to five years in prison, but three of them suspended.

Vernaudon was fined more than 100,000 US dollars.

Two other former ministers, Natacha Taurua and Georges Puchon, have been given suspended six-month jail sentences.

An assembly member, Hiro Tefaarere, has been fined 22,000 US dollars and deprived of his civic rights for two years.

A former assembly member, Loic Brigato, has been given a jail sentence of six months.

The lawyer acting for Vernaudon says the court wanted to send a message that it planned to end his political career.

Vernaudon's jailing comes a day after he launched his campaign to be re-elected as mayor of Mahina.

It will be the second time in less than three years that he will have run for office from prison.

Three years ago, Vernaudon made legal history by becoming the first person under French jurisdiction to be elected mayor while in jail.