FORMER TAHITI OFFICIAL SENTENCED IN SINKING

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Puputauki to serve two years for negligence
PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, April 22, 2010) - The Papeete Appeal
Court sentenced former GIP leader, Léonard Rere Puputauki, to a
four-year prison term Thursday, with two years suspended, in the case of
a September 2003 ship capsizing which caused the death of 7 persons.

Yannick Boosie, Puputauki's right hand man at the Groupement d'Intervention de la Polynésie (GIP), received a three-year prison sentence, with two years suspended.

The court's sentence was lighter than what the prosecutor had requested last January for Puputauki.

The Papeete prosecutor had requested a five-year prison sentence, with two years suspended, for the former GIP leader.

Seven persons died in the accident aboard the Tahiti Nui IV, which sank off the island of Rimatara in the southernmost Austral Islands. Fourteen men were rescued from the shipwreck.

The trial focused on whether the 22-year-old Tahiti Nui IV transport vessel was in good condition for its last voyage.

The BEA, or French Accident Investigation Board, issued a damning report on the ship in January 2005.

The BEA found the vessel had not received sufficient maintenance work during its last months of activity, taking into consideration its maneuverability. The BEA said the Tahiti Nui IV "had gradually become not navigable".

The Papeete Criminal Court also sentenced Puputauki to a year in prison last March because he violated local labor laws.

From 2003 to 2005, Puputauki used GIP members to transfer commercial tuna fishing boats from Asia to Tahiti. Members of the Territorial flotilla were then working for what was in fact a private business, according to the Papeete prosecutor.

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