Pacific News Minute: Current and Former Presidents of French Polynesia Face Criminal Charges
The President of French Polynesia appeared in criminal court in Tahiti this week, on charges that he bribed a local radio station to support the political party then headed by his father-in-law, five time President Gaston Flosse...who was himself convicted on separate charges a couple of weeks ago. Neal Conan unravels the story in the Pacific News Minute.
Known to his supporters as the old Lion, Gaston Flosse has been the dominant political figure in French Polynesia since the territory achieved semi-autonomy. He was elected the territory's first president in 1984 as the head of a conservative, anti-independence party and ruled for most of the next 20 years.
He also compiled an impressive record of corruption charges. Allegations include kickbacks on government contracts and a vast fake jobs scam. But the case that eventually brought him down was his use of $10-million dollars in public money to operate a spy ring to keep track of rival politicians, journalists and his mistresses.
He lost office in 2004 in what was known as the Taui, “the big change” returned briefly to power in 2005, again in 2008, and then lead his party to a smashing victory in the election of 2013. Less than a year later, though, he was convicted on a charge connected to the spy ring and forced to resign. His Taho - e Raa Hui ra a tira party collapsed, but his son in law and political heir, Edouard Fritch formed a new coalition and was himself elected president. He now faces $27-thousand in fines for bribes he allegedly offered when he was Flosse's deputy. Convicted on another spy ring charge just last month, Gaston Flosse, now 84, hopes to serve two… two year suspended sentences concurrently so he would be able to run for parliament again in 2018.