14 Sep 2009

Another senior politician in French Polynesia questioned over fraud case

6:20 am on 14 September 2009

A former French Polynesian president, Gaston Tong Sang, and his partner, Romina Pinson, have been released from police custody after being questioned for more than 24 hours over property transactions linked to another former president, Gaston Flosse.

This comes amid a recent flurry of searches by investigators probing alleged corrupt deals involving the state-owned OPT telecommunications company.

The investigators have now also visited Mr Flosse's lawyer reportedly to study documents after searching the Papeete branch of the Socredo bank, his party's offices as well as the premises of key companies.

Tomorrow, the French senate will consider a new request by Tahiti judges to lift Mr Flosse's parliamentary immunity.

In July, he was only allowed to be questioned by police but not be taken into custody.

Five people, including his personal secretary, have been in prison for up to nearly four months as part of the investigation into the misuse of OPT money, now estimated to be in the range of ten million US dollars over a ten-year period.

The brief detention of Mr Tong Sang is being seen as a widening of the investigation of Mr Flosse's affairs when he was president in the 1990s and the first half of this decade.