16 Jun 2021

Court cases chafe New Caledonian political figures

5:02 pm on 16 June 2021

A leading pro-independence politician in New Caledonia has been fined and handed a suspended prison sentence, and a Kanak leader has fired back against allegations of abuse of power and forgery.

President of New Caledonia's Northern Province Paul Neaoutyine

President of New Caledonia's Northern Province Paul Neaoutyine. Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

Paul Neaoutyine, the president of New Caledonia's Northern Province, has been given a suspended four-month prison sentence and fined $10,000 by the Court of Appeal.

He was found guilty of favouritism by misspending public funds over allocations to various organisations, including one in charge related to transporting disabled children.

Neaoutyine had awarded the transport contract without going through a tender process.

At his trial two years ago, he had argued that such transport was the responsibility of the territorial government, which he said didn't do its job. Neaoutyine said he had not been authorised to call for tenders, but did not want to leave the children without support.

His lawyer told local media that the justice system had failed to understand the shortcomings in the administrative process.

Kanak leader hits out at prosecutors and media

Kanak community leader Raphael Mapou has fired back at New Caledonia prosecutors after they accused him of abuse of power and forgery.

Mapou, who heads the Rheebu Nuu environmental group, was detained for questioning over his role in several public companies eight years ago.

He said the investigators failed to provide any evidence, but the prosecution proceeded to issue a statement as if the allegations were proven.

The new probe comes less than a month after he was detained for four days and then charged with belonging to a criminal organisation following last December's unrest and violence at the Vale nickel plant.

Mapou said the Noumea media were keen on such information if it concerned a pro-independence leader from the Kanak community, but he was considering legal action for defamation.

Mapou's brother Louis is a pro-independence candidate for the vacant post of president of the New Caledonian government.

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