Flosse loses power in French Polynesia

Conviction drives veteran politician out

After exhausting all avenues of appeal, President Gaston Flosse of French Polynesia has been removed from office following his conviction for misappropriation of public funds. The decision ends the career of the dominant figure in French Polynesia’s political life since the 1960s. Flosse was a fierce opponent of independence for French Polynesia and a champion of France’s 30-year nuclear testing programme. In the post-nuclear era, he was a close friend and political ally of former French President Jacques Chirac, but the election of Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 and Francois Hollande in 2012 weakened his political protection by the French state.

Flosse was convicted last year in a case of “ghost employees,” receiving a four-year suspended prison sentence, 125,000 fine and three years loss of civic rights. Because of his age, Flosse did not face imprisonment, but the loss of civic rights would make him ineligible to serve as President. Last April, the French Senate lifted his parliamentary immunity, opening the way for the application of his sentence. After a legal appeal to the Cour de Cassation in Paris was rejected in July, Flosse appealed for a presidential pardon from President Hollande. However the Socialist Party leader refused to grant this pardon and on September 5, the French High Commissioner in Papeete announced that Flosse would be removed from office.

This was not the only legal case involving a politician who began life as a simple teacher and ended as a multi-millionaire. In recent years, Flosse has been under investigation or charged with offences over the misuse of public funds in the sale of Anuanuraro atoll and the construction of the Taaone Hospital; and the use of public funds from Pirae municipality to provide water to his villa. In another case, he was convicted in the Office of Postal and Telecommunications (OPT) affair, involving the payment of nearly US$2 million of kickbacks from businessman Hubert Haddad.

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