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Former Tahiti leader avoids ban from politics

PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, June 14, 2010) - A recent French Constitutional Council decision implies that Senator Gaston Flosse will not automatically get a five year ban against holding public office in the famous 2004 "sushi case."

The ruling last week in Paris annulled a controversial section of the French Elections code.

This section, known as the L 7 article, provided that any politician convicted of misuse of public funds will automatically be banned against holding public office during five years.

The French Constitutional Council ruled that the section was "unconstitutional." The decision on the ban can only be decided by Courts, the French Constitutional Council ruled.

Flosse, who is still expecting a ruling by the French Court of Cassation, is now sure he will not automatically get a five year ban against public office in the famous 2004 "sushi case."

However, the French Court of Cassation can still uphold the one year ban against holding public office decided by a Papeéte Court of Appeals last year.

The French Court of Cassation ruling could be known as soon as June 16 but no confirmed date has been announced yet.

If the Court of Cassation upholds the Appeals Court’s ruling, Flosse will both lose his Senate seat and French Polynesia Assembly seat.

What has become known in Tahiti’s media as the "sushi case" dates back to the night of May 23, 2004. That was when then French Polynesia President Flosse was preparing to celebrate another election victory for control of the 57-seat French Polynesia Assembly, which elects Tahiti’s president.

His pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy political party had ordered 2.362 million French Pacific francs (US$30,282/€19,794) of sushi and Champagne for the celebration.

But there was no celebration because pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru pulled off what became the biggest upset of his political career.

The new Temaru government had to pick up the tab. But the Temaru government did not take any action. It wasn’t until after Flosse had toppled the five-month-old Temaru government in October 2004 that Temaru went to court against Flosse.

The Temaru government’s civil suit against Flosse sought 2.362 million French Pacific francs in damages to cover the cost of the Flosse election night celebration.

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