3 Jun 2014

French Polynesia atoll embezzlement trial opens

8:09 am on 3 June 2014

The trial opens on Tuesday of the French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse and five others accused of corruption over a 2002 atoll purchase.

Investigations into the case began nine years ago and a trial was to be held in January, but was deferred because the father of the lawyer of a defendant had died.

Presidential palace, Papeete

Presidential palace, Papeete Photo: RNZ

Walter Zweifel reports.

"The six accused include a former president Gaston Tong Sang who was the lands minister at the time and Georges Puchon, who was in charge of finance. They are jointly accused of abusing public funds by paying a leading pearl producer, Robert Wan, nine million US dollars to buy Anuanuraro atoll. The sum was five times the atoll's value but Gaston Flosse's lawyer says the valuations were incorrect and the embezzlement charges don't add up. During the investigations, Mr Tong Sang denied any wrongdoing and said he acted on Mr Flosse's instructions. Mr Flosse had said that it was the then finance minister, Georges Puchon, who approved the purchase. The trial is expected to last five days."