20 Jan 2011

French Polynesia politician to contest election from jail

7:02 am on 20 January 2011

French Polynesia's veteran politician, Emile Vernaudon, will have to contest this month's municipal election from jail after he and 11 others were sentenced for the abuse of funds at the state-owned telecommunications company, OPT.

Vernaudon was also fined more than 100,000 US dollars for having overseen the misspending of 1.4 million US dollars between 2004 and 2006.

Walter Zweifel reports.

"An appeal will allow Vernaudon to try for a second time in three years to win the mayoralty of Mahina but under the terms of his latest sentence, he has to run from jail. He was sentenced to five years in prison, yet he is widely expected to be released before the full term is served, in part because of health problems that worsened when he was in jail during the investigations of the irregular OPT expenditures. Three years ago, Vernaudon made legal history by becoming the first person under French jurisdiction to be elected mayor while in jail. But then he lost the position in Mahina because of a conviction for corruption over a land deal. Yesterday, he was jailed again - on the second day of campaigning to regain the position."