Tahiti's Flosse set to lose office
France's highest court has upheld a major corruption sentence given to the French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse.
France's highest court has upheld a major corruption sentence given to the French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse last year.
Once the court ruling is enforced, the 83-year-old politician will have to quit the presidency and surrender his seat in the French Senate.
Walter Zweifel has this report.
French Polynesia's radio listeners have awoken to news that Gaston Flosse has lost his appeal in Paris. The court found that last year's appeal court sentence given in Tahiti stands. He was given a four-year suspended jail sentence, a 170,000 US dollar fine and was banned from public office for three years. Flosse had been found guilty of running a network of so-called phantom jobs within the presidency in the 1990s in what has been the biggest case of its kind in French legal history. 10 others have also lost their appeal, including the mayor of Papara Bruno Sandras, who will also be forced to resign. The publisher of the Tahiti Pacifique monthly, Alex du Prel, says the decision was instantly communicated to the High Commission in Papeete.
ALEX DU PREL : The Tahiti court had received, apparently by fax or email, the Paris sentence and had transmitted it right away to the High Commissioner which is unequalled in the history of French Polynesia where generally might take six months, a year or more.
There was no immediate government reaction in Papeete, but reports of disbelief that the career of the man, known as the vieux lion, or Old Lion, and as the President Forever, could be sidelined. The presidency took hours to comment and says Flosse is awaiting official notification of the verdict while work is continuing. Flosse maintains that he has done no wrong. Three years ago the day he was convicted, he told local television that all appointments were above board and approved by successive French high commissioners.
GASTON FLOSSE: I have never abused public funds. In this affair I have never enriched myself personally. I employed staff who I put to serve the community.
His lawyers are said to be turning to the European Human Rights court, alleging the French judiciary has violated his basic liberties. A Taheoraa politician says Flosse's successor has been chosen and it's understood to be his former son-in-law and president of the territorial assembly, Edouard Fritch. Last year, when Mr Fritch was elected to the territorial assembly and the Paris decision was expected, he told me that he has been waiting to follow Flosse.
WALTER ZWEIFEL: If he is forced to resign, what will that mean for you?
EDOUARD FRITCH: I'm ready if something arrived to Mr Flosse.
WZ: Are you expected to take over should he resign?
EF: I wait since 1981 so I can wait again.
The verdict came as Flosse was scheduled to travel to Auckland to meet Polynesian leaders before next week's Pacific Islands Forum summit in Palau. In his place, the delegation is to be led by the vice-president, Nuihau Laurey.
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