22 Mar 2011

Tahiti cable probe leads to President being charged

4:07 pm on 22 March 2011

A French probe into the awarding of a contract to lay the Honotua communications cable to Tahiti has engulfed French Polynesia's political leadership, with 11 people being detained and seven charged .

Investigators have charged the president, Gaston Tong Sang, with favouritism which under French law can be punished with up to two years imprisonment.

The project was launched in 2006 and signed off with Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Network in 2008 at a time when several governments succeeded each other.

Two former heads of the board of the telecommunications company OPT, Jean-Paul Barral et Jean-Alain Frébault, have also been charged.

The president of the assembly, Oscar Temaru, was also briefly detained for questioning but freed without charges being laid.

Others to have been questioned this month are the former chairman of the OPT board, Emile Vernaudon, who was brought in from jail where he is serving a five-year sentence for having overseen the misspending of 1.4 million US dollars between 2004 and 2006.

Another former top OPT official, Alphonse Teriierooiterai, has also been detained along with an advisor to the project, Georges Puchon.

The opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party of Gaston Flosse says it has nothing to fear from the probe.