Veteran Tahiti politician Flosse accuses France of causing his ‘political death’

Former Tahiti president Gaston Flosse
Former Tahiti president Gaston Flosse ... questioning why he was "singled out" for punishment in a legal witch hunt. Image: RNZ/AFP

RNZ Pacific

French Polynesia’s former president Gaston Flosse says he is in mourning because the French state has signed his political death by banning him from political office for five years for abusing public funds.

Flosse made the statement after France’s highest appeal court upheld a 2020 conviction over a long-running corrupt water supply arrangement in Pirae.

The ruling means the 90-year-old Flosse will not be able to contest this year’s French National Assembly elections and next year’s territorial election.

As former and current mayors of the town of Pirae, Flosse and now President Edouard Fritch made the town administration pay for the water use in 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.

When the two were convicted in Tahiti in 2020, Flosse was declared ineligible to hold office for five years.

Flosse questioned how the justice system worked, as he was singled out for punishment in a witch hunt while Fritch got away with just a fine.

Why was Fritch still eligible?
He said he wondered why Fritch was not made ineligible for two years because for years the scheme was run while Fritch was mayor.

Flosse’s lawyer said he could not understand the intellectual mechanism used to convict Flosse over the issue.

Losing the appeal in Paris last week, Flosse, will not be able to run for office until 2027, but he said would not give up and would continue with renewed vigour.

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 he had 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.

In French Polynesia, about a quarter of the ruling party’s assembly members have corruption convictions, including the assembly president Gaston Tong Sang.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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