PARIS COURT ADJOURNS FRENCH POLYNESIA PRESIDENT FLOSSE’S "HOMBO"

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PAPE'ETE, French Polynesia (October 6, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---A Paris court of appeal adjourned to next May a graft case involving French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse and gambling establishment owner Julien Li Lem, RFO-radio reports.

Li Lem had asked for the case to be adjourned because he said his new lawyer needed more time to become "more familiar with the case."

The Appeal Court was to hear two cases, including one dubbed the "Hombo" affair.

An earlier ruling found Flosse guilty of graft and accepting bribes from ethnic Chinese businessman Julien Li Lem (nicknamed Hombo) between 1990 and 1992, in exchange for an operating license for his gambling establishment in Pirae, a town near Pape'ete.

Flosse, who was also Pirae mayor at the time, was fined 1.8 million French Pacific Francs (about US$ 15,000) with a suspended two-year jail term and one-year suspension of his civic rights (to vote and contest elections).

He appealed to the ruling, saying the money was not for him, but for his Tahoeraa political party.

The 69-year-old Flosse was reported to be furious at the court postponement.

"We are really scandalized, indignant, of this adjournment, because me, I was ready to be judged today in this case. You know it. I have already said it. I have nothing to feel should be held against me. This is about financing my political party, the Tahoeraa Huiraatira. I would have liked this case to be closed and be over and done with today (Friday)," Flosse told reporters.

"This will be after the elections, an opportunity for opposition parties to use this in their electoral campaign."

The other case, pertaining to local private airline Air Oceania, was not heard at all because the appeal (not lodged by Flosse) was withdrawn at the last minute.

The earlier ruling on January 7 found Flosse guilty of misusing public funds between 1992 and 1993 by obtaining free air tickets.

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