Pacific News Minute: Former President of French Polynesia Loses Appeal In Phantom Jobs Scandal

Jun 26, 2019

Gaston Flosse
Credit Jérôme Gallecier / CC BY-SA 2.5 / Wikimedia Commons

France’s highest court has rejected an appeal filed by the former President of French Polynesia and 12 others in the so-called phantom jobs scandal.  The defendants have been ordered to repay 4.2 million dollars.

Gaston Flosse dominated politics in French Polynesia for decades, due in no small part to the strength of his political party, the Toheraa Huiraatira.

Five years ago, he was convicted on charges that he rewarded many party supporters with no-show jobs for almost a decade. It was hardly his first corruption conviction, but this one forced him to resign as president and barred him from political office.

Flosse’s political protégé and son-in-law Edouard Fritch succeeded him as President. Fritch was also among his co-defendants.

After losing in the first round of appeals three years ago, Fritch agreed to repay 65,000 dollars. He broke with Flosse, divorced his wife, established his own party, the Tapura Huiraatira and last year, won the presidency on his own. 

Afterwards both he and his former mentor were charged with abuse of public funds in their role as mayors of the town of Pirae. Prosecutors allege that Gaston Flosse arranged for the town to supply water to the upscale neighborhood where he lived, and that Fritch continued the arrangement after he took over as mayor. 

During the trial, the enmity between the two men deepened; Flosse was fined 20,000 dollars for defamatory remarks about Fritch.

In the 2018 Presidential election, long time pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru ran as the only candidate never convicted of corruption. Now he’s on trial for using party funds to support a local radio station that trumpets his causes, a case he argues is political retribution.