15 Aug 2012

Tahiti businessman rejects Temaru's claim of occult forces

6:11 pm on 15 August 2012

A businessman in Tahiti has taken issue with claims by French Polynesia's president Oscar Temaru that occult forces are behind plans for a casino in a hotel set to close in November.

The casino plans emerged as the closure of the loss-making Sofitel Maeva Beach Hotel was confirmed last week, with Mr Temaru warning he would leave his homeland should a casino open in the territory.

The businessman, Franck Falletta, has issued a statement, saying not occult but divine forces are at play.

He says when he lost his mother and siblings during the Second World War, the Virgin Mary appeared and consoled him.

In 2009, Mr Falletta, who owns a supermarket chain, announced plans for a 300 million US dollar international venture to build hotels and casinos and thereby creating thousands of jobs.

The Sofitel Maeva Beach Hotel has 105 employees whose future is uncertain as tourism has declined and remains in crisis.