24 Aug 2009

Flosse supporters fast as fresh pressure builds over OPT probe

11:47 am on 24 August 2009

Supporters of French Polynesia's veteran leader, Gaston Flosse, have been holding a fast in his support as judges have made a fresh bid for the lifting of his parliamentary immunity.

The support action is being reported by RFO radio and comes amid claims that he is suspected as being central in a long-running corruption probe into the affairs of the state-owned OPT telecommunications company.

In July, the French senate agreed to partially lift Mr Flosse's immunity for him to be questioned for up to 24 hours twice but stated that he could not to be taken into custody unless the Senate approved a further request put to it by the French justice ministry.

In the past week, investigators carried out nearly daily searches in Papeete of the Socredo Bank, the OPT offices and the premises of Air Tahiti Nui, prompting further questioning of the former French Polynesian president.

Five people, including a former OPT boss and Mr Flosse's personal secretary, have been held in jail for up to four months amid suspicion that Mr Flosse received about two million US dollars in kickbacks from a French advertising executive over a period of more than ten years.