France’s highest court has upheld a corruption conviction of French Polynesia’s former president Gaston Flosse, effectively ending his political career.
It confirmed a 2020 appeal court ruling in Tahiti, which had deprived Flosse of his eligibility to hold public office for five years after finding him and the current president Edouard Fritch guilty of abusing public funds.
As former and current mayors of the town of Pirae, Flosse and Fritch made the town administration pay for the water supply to the upmarket Erima neighbourhood, where Flosse lived.
Flosse had set up the scheme and Fritch allowed the abusive billing process to be continued until the practice was discovered in an audit in 2011. In the appeal court in 2020, Flosse had been given a two-year suspended prison sentence.
However, Fritch was allowed to stay in office, but both have been fined and have been ordered to jointly settle the water bill of US$820,000.
When the case went to court, Fritch was a defendant and, as the mayor of Pirae, he was also a complainant because in the civil case running alongside, the town sought to be reimbursed.
In Paris, the court did not accept Flosse’s arguments that the statute of limitations applied, and it rejected a claim that Fritch could not both be a complainant and an accused.
Losing the appeal in Paris, Flosse, who is 90, will not be able to contest this year’s French National Assembly elections nor next year’s territorial election.
Only last week, he had announced his candidacy for one of the three French Polynesian seats in the French legislature.
In 2014, Flosse had been declared ineligible for five years after another corruption conviction and hoped to avert a renewed such sanction by taking the matter to Paris.
He was forced to relinquish the presidency to his deputy Fritch, but the two politicians have since fallen out.
Fritch has since been re-elected president and mayor of Pirae.
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