28 Jan 2014

French Polynesia atoll embezzlement trial deferred

2:08 pm on 28 January 2014

The trial of French Polynesia's two top politicians and four others in a historic corruption case has been deferred until June the 2nd because one of the lawyers' father has died.

An earlier bid to stop the trial because of municipal elections looming in March was rejected.

The president, Gaston Flosse, and the president of the territorial assembly, Edouard Fritch, are the two most senior politicians accused of embezzling public funds in 2002.

They bought an atoll from a leading pearl producer, Robert Wan, for five times its value.

Mr Flosse has said a co-accused and then finance minister, Georges Puchon, was the one to approve the purchase of Anuanuraro atoll for nine million US dollars.

The then lands minister, Gaston Tong Sang, has denied any wrongdoing and he has said he acted on Mr Flosse's instructions.

The case follows a complaint lodged by the opposition nine years ago.

Mr Flosse initially refused to be questioned for several months and attempted to derail the probe by sending the investigative judge a copy of the letter sent to President Chirac, alleging he was the victim of a plot.