27 Dec 2014

French Polynesia assembly president charged

6:18 am on 27 December 2014

The president of French Polynesia's assembly, Marcel Tuihani, has been charged with receiving stolen public property as part of a theft probe involving the territory's disgraced former president, Gaston Flosse.

Mr Tuihani was detained amid suspicion that he was linked to the alleged theft of about 70,000 US dollars worth of china from the presidential palace after Flosse was forced from office because of a corruption conviction upheld by France's highest court earlier this year.

While much of the crockery was found at Flosse's private home, some of it was allegedly taken to the assembly office, which Mr Tuihani made available to Flosse after his demise.

Flosse was this month banned from entering the assembly premises as part of the conditions imposed by the investigative judge dealing with the alleged theft.

Mr Tuihani is free on condition he has no contact with Flosse or his partner, Pascale Haiti, who is a co-accused in the theft case.

Flosse says he paid for the china with his own money.

He has also said there was no public money used in his assembly job.

Flosse says he worked on behalf of his party for free and paid for the office to be furnished with his own money.

Mr Tuihani became the assembly president when Edouard Fritch quit the post to succeed Flosse as president.

They all belong to the Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party, which has seen unprecedented rifts in recent months, mainly between Mr Fritch and a faction led by Flosse and Mr Tuihani.