21 Mar 2008

French Polynesian politicians questioned in atoll sale probe

4:12 pm on 21 March 2008

Investigative judges in French Polynesia are questioning President Gaston Flosse and three former top Tahoeraa Huiraatira politicians in a long-running probe into alleged fraud over the sale of Anuanuraro atoll.

This week, the judges have already questioned Gaston Tong Sang over the deal in 2002 when the Flosse-led government bought the atoll from the territory's leading pearl producer allegedly for five times its value.

The judges want to get clarification of the sale conditions and have questioned the seller, Robert Wan.

Mr Tong Sang, who is now the opposition leader, was first questioned three years ago and subsequently banned from meeting or talking to Edouard Fritch, who was the vice president at the time of the purchase.

The ban was eased after a few days because it would have prevented the two men from continuing to serve in the assembly.

Mr Tong Sang has denied any wrongdoing and he has said he acted on Mr Flosse's instructions.

Mr Flosse has said that it was the then finance minister, Georges Puchon, who approved the purchase.