15 Apr 2013

New Caledononia's Martin denies wrongdoing in family land case

9:15 am on 15 April 2013

New Caledonia's president, Harold Martin has rejected suggestions of wrongdoing after being charged over an alleged conflict of interest.

Judges in Noumea put Mr Martin under formal investigation over the 2008 rezoning of land, which he and his siblings had sold in Paita a year earlier.

The rezoning to clear the land for a commercial development was approved by Mr Martin in his capapcity as Mayor of Paita.

He says it was his right to sell the land, which has been in the family since 1860.

A month ago, Mr Martin was charged in another case of alleged conflict of interest in connection with the awarding of a public contract as he is also the chair of the board of the OPT telecommunications company.

In December, his predecessor and political rival, Philippe Gomes, had successfully appealed against a corruption-related suspended five-month prison sentence related to a business deal while he was in public office.