FRENCH POLYNESIA NEWS

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For Wednesday, September 22, 1999
PINA Nius Online

FORMER FRENCH POLYNESIA PRESIDENT LÉONTIEFF JAILED FOR THREE YEARS

PAPEETE, French Polynesia (September 22, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---A court in Paris on Wednesday rejected a sentencing appeal filed by French Polynesia's former President Alexandre Léontieff, who has started serving a three-year jail term, RFO-radio reports.

The criminal chamber of the Paris Court of Appeals rejected Léontieff’s appeal of a sentence announced October 21, 1998 of three years in jail, a fine of six million French Pacific Francs and cancellation of civic rights for five years.

(NOTE: CFP 113.02 = US$ 1.00 on September 22, 1999)

The sentence also vacates his chair in the French Polynesian Assembly (parliament) for the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira party, headed by Oscar Temaru.

Léontieff, 51, who was French Polynesia's President from 1987 to 1991, had to surrender to the police in Papeete a day earlier as, according to French law, this was a condition for his appeal to be heard.

Léontieff was found guilty of fraud.

The court heard that he, together with then tax department head Yves Abguillerm, arranged for a fiscal exemption in favor of the private Cardella Hospital in Papeete in 1989.

In exchange, he was given a "commission" of 20 million CFP (US$ 176,960).

The court said he had betrayed the trust placed in him by the people who had elected him by abusing his position to gain benefits, either for himself or for his party.

Abguillerm, whom the court saw as an accomplice, was also sentenced to three years in jail (with one year suspended).

Léontieff, in another corruption case, was found guilty on September 8, 1999 and sentenced to another three-year jail term, a fine of 18 million CFP and a five-year cancellation of his civic rights.

His appeal on this case is yet to be heard.

In still another case, a court found him guilty of corruption and fined him 14 million CFP, with a two-year jail sentence and a five-year cancellation of his civic rights.

The latest appeal ruling is seen here as the end of Léontieff's political career, which started in 1977.

He was once current President Gaston Flosse's major contender, when he obtained support from 14 members who defected Flosse's party to form a new majority within the French Polynesian Assembly.

He could serve his jail sentence either in French Polynesia or in metropolitan France.

In a press statement released earlier this week, prior to his surrender, Léontieff said he was the victim of a "political plot."

"In spite of my claims of innocence, in spite of the absence of any corruption action, in spite of the absence of evidence, the judges have won."

Léontieff said he intended to spend the three years in jail writing a book about his political career.

 

PRO-INDEPENDENCE PARTY FAILS TO MEET FRENCH ASSISTANT OVERSEAS MINISTER

PAPEETE, French Polynesia (September 22, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira party leader Oscar Temaru on Wednesday cancelled his appointments with visiting French Assistant Overseas Minister Jean-Jack Queyranne, RFO-radio reports.

Tavini party leader Oscar Temaru, who asked for a change in Queyranne's schedule, said he had done so because the minister had chosen to meet opposition representatives separately and not the opposition as a whole.

Another reason was announcement of the appeal court ruling confirming Tavini Huiraatira party member and former French Polynesian President Alexandre Léontieff's imprisonment for three years.

Temaru said the French justice's requirement for Léontieff to surrender himself prior to his appeal hearing was " unacceptable."

"More than ever, it is necessary to get rid of the colonial government of France."

Tamaru made the announcement at meetings of the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific conference under way this week in French Polynesia.

Léontieff was to have delivered an address at the conference.

"The dialogue has not ceased," Queyranne said in an interview with RFO's Télé-Polynésie.

"Oscar Temaru sent me a letter. . . expressing his views and proposals for French Polynesia's political future. So I’m saying the door is still open, here or in Paris to all parties wanting to see me."

He, however, deplored the "lost opportunity" for French Polynesia.

 

"DECOLONIZATION DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN INDEPENDENCE": QUEYRANNE

PAPEETE, French Polynesia (September 22, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)--- French Assistant Overseas Minister Jean-Jack Queyranne on Wednesday disassociated the two concepts of decolonization and independence for French Polynesia, RFO-radio reports.

"I think France's role in French Polynesia is about solidarity, because this is one of the key elements in French Polynesia's economic development," he said.

He cited figures on France's financial commitments in the French territory.

"In civilian matters, that is excluding any military spending, France currently spends 350,000 CFP per inhabitant of French Polynesia.

"This is a high contribution, actually higher than the national average in France. I think without this sort of contribution, French Polynesia couldn't enjoy the standard of living it currently has.

"Independence must be accompanied by economic emancipation," he added.

"In the sixties, we thought independence was the only way to decolonize. Then we found out that although decolonization maybe resulted in independence to the concerned countries, at the same time they had become more dependent on foreign powers, so there was a form of economic colonialism."

"This leads me to believe that decolonization doesn't necessarily mean independence. On the other hand, it could mean evolution."

This bulletin was produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). Editor: Patrick Antoine Decloitre For more information, contact Nina Ratulele, PINA Administrator, at pina@is.com.fj 

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