19 Jul 2013

Tahiti businessman Falletta detained amid probe

1:55 pm on 19 July 2013

A leading businessman in French Polynesia, Franck Falletta, has been detained amid an investigation into alleged abuse of corporate assets.

Mr Falletta, who is also the leader of the small Te Ara Tia Party, was taken into custody yesterday and local radio says his offices are being searched.

Last year, Mr Falletta, who owns a supermarket chain and a travel agency, offered to take over the Sofitel Maeva Beach hotel in order to turn it into a casino.

The offer triggered a broad debate over the possible role of casinos in reviving the tourism sector, with both the then President Oscar Temaru and the main churches opposing legalised gambling.

Mr Falletta then issued a statement, saying not occult but divine forces are at play.

He says when he lost his mother and siblings during the Second World War, the Virgin Mary appeared and consoled him.

In 2009, Mr Falletta announced plans for a 300 million US dollar international venture to build hotels and casinos and thereby creating thousands of jobs.