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TAHITI’S FLOSSE IMMUNE FROM PROSECUTION Former president implicated in alleged kickback scheme

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 16, 2009) – The French Senate has refused to act on a request by the judiciary to lift the parliamentary immunity of French Polynesia’s Gaston Flosse, who is suspected to have played a key role in the alleged misuse of funds of Tahiti’s publicly owned OPT telecommunications company.

The Senate president, Gerard Larcher, says the Senate is not in a position to make a decision until the judges have made full use of their powers.

In July, the Senate partially lifted Mr Flosse’s immunity, on request by French Polynesian judges and backed by the French justice ministry, to allow for two interrogations but precluded any move by investigators to take him into custody.

Five key figures, including his personal secretary, have been in jail in Tahiti for up to four months as part of the probe which centres on allegations that two million US dollars was given to Mr Flosse over ten years as kickbacks for granting public sector contracts to a French advertising executive.

In July, Mr Flosse said he was ready to go to prison if those who had been jailed were to be set free.

Mr Flosse is a long standing member of the France’s ruling UMP block in the Senate but last year the party disowned him for refusing to form a coalition with French Polynesia’s biggest pro-autonomy party following an early general election.

He has been an ally of the previous French President, Jacques Chirac, and served as a member of his government in the 1980s before becoming French Polynesia’s president.

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