22 Oct 2010

Five-year jail term sought for French Polynesia's Vernaudon over OPT affair

2:36 pm on 22 October 2010

The prosecutor in French Polynesia's OPT case has asked for a five-year jail sentence for a former government minister, Emile Vernaudon.

Mr Vernaudon is one of 16 people being tried in Tahiti this week for allegedly misspending 1.4 million US dollars of public money between 2004 and 2006 when he was in charge of the OPT telecommunications company.

The court case follows a two-year probe based on a check by the accounts office in 2007 which found massive irregularities to the benefit of Mr Vernaudon and his political grouping.

Mr Vernaudon was imprisoned for several months as part of the investigation and made legal history in 2008 by becoming the first person under French jurisdiction to be elected mayor while in jail.

The prosecution has also asked for Mr Vernaudon to be stripped of his civic rights.

He has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of the affair.