18 Apr 2019

Gomes hits out at New Caledonia probe

5:51 pm on 18 April 2019

A top New Caledonian politician, Philippe Gomes, says charges laid against him amount to a ridiculous affair that will end up in the dungeons of New Caledonia's judicial history.

Philippe Gomes

Philippe Gomes Photo: AFP

His reaction comes after it became public that two weeks ago he was charged with exerting undue influence while serving as both a French assembly member, a New Caledonian Congress member and the chair of an energy company.

Mr Gomes is the leader of the largest anti-independence party and one of two representatives of New Caledonia in the French National Assembly.

Last year, his role as board chair of New Caledonia Energy was challenged by an anti-corruption group, prompting him to raise the matter with France's constitutional court in Paris.

The court ruled that the two roles were not compatible and as a result he resigned from the company.

New Caledonia Energy was formed in 2016 to build a $US700 million electricity plant with New Caledonian and French money to feed Noumea's industrial area.

Mr Gomes said he prided himself having stood up for the public good to secure the project.

Exerting undue influence can be punished with jail terms of up to five years.

Seven years ago, the appeal court quashed a suspended jail sentence Mr Gomes had received in a corruption-related case in which he had been accused of arranging a public contract to benefit his private business.