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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, March 5) – Former French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse has been interrogated by a French investigating magistrate about his government's purchase of the Tuamotu atoll of Anuanuraro [southeast of Tahiti].

The investigation involves an alleged illegal misappropriation of public funds and an alleged misuse of public office in the Flosse government's payment of 850 million French Pacific francs [US$8.9 million] for the atoll, French daily newspaper Les Nouvelles de Tahiti reported Friday.

The atoll was bought from Robert Wan, Tahiti's biggest producer of Tahitian cultured pearls. At one time in the past, Wan operated a pearl farm at Anuanuraro, which is located southeast of Tahiti.

Although the Flosse government paid 850 million French Pacific francs for the atoll in 2002, a government real estate evaluation commission estimated the atoll's price a year earlier at 150 million French Pacific francs [US$1.5 million].

The interrogation conducted by the magistrate, Anne Barruol, on February 27, occurred five months after she interrogated Wan, former Flosse government Vice President Edouard Fritch and former Flosse Finance Minister Georges Puchon. Flosse and Fritch today are leaders of the biggest opposition party in the French Polynesia Assembly, while Puchon has left Flosse's political party.

The newspaper noted Friday that Flosse's interrogation occurred under the utmost secrecy. It noted that Flosse told the news media last October that he planned to tell the investigating magistrate that there never was any misappropriation of public funds, neither by his political party, himself or those who signed the purchase decrees.

The interrogations stem from two "john doe" complaints filed by French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru in October 2004.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR news files, in Flosse’s absence, former French Polynesia Vice President Fritch chaired the Government Council meeting in April 2002 that approved the purchase of Wan’s atoll. Bora Bora Mayor Tong Sang was then head of the government’s Land Evaluation Commission, which increased the price of the 528-acre former pearl farming atoll nearly six times the original value (read the story).]

March 6, 2006

Tahitipresse: http://www.tahitipresse.pf/index.cfm?lang=2

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