5 Apr 2006

French Polynesian top politicians found misusing public funds

4:58 pm on 5 April 2006

The accounts office in French Polynesia has found that top opposition politicians used three million US dollars in public funds inappropriately when they were in government.

The 27 people found guilty of the abuse include the leaders of the Tahoeraa Huiraatira party, including its leader, Gaston Flosse.

Among those implicated in the abuse are the mayor of Pirae and former vice president, Edouard Fritch, and the mayor of Papeete, Michel Buillard, who is one of the territory's two members of the French assembly.

The misuse dates back to the period 1991-2004.

The Tahitipresse news agency says today's ruling may appealed within two months but could be enforced to make the politicians have to repay the money.

Earlier this year, Mr Flosse's lawyer defended the payments, saying they were made to people to provide technical and financial support to various municipalities.