Commemoration held in Tahiti for politicians on a ‘vanished’ flight

Twenty years on for Boris Léontieff
Twenty years on ... commemorating the loss of Tahitian politician Boris Léontieff who was on a small plane flight that vanished. Image: RNZ/FB

RNZ Pacific

A commemoration has been held in French Polynesia to mark the 20th anniversary of the disappearance of a leading opposition politician in the Tuamotus.

Boris Léontieff, who headed the Fetia Api party, was among four politicians travelling in a small plane on a campaign trip when it disappeared without a trace.

The commemoration was held in Arue where Léontieff was the mayor.

Boris Léontieff
Boris Léontieff … leader of the Fetia Api party was among four Tahitian politicians who disappeared on a flight. Image: Radio1

The case was closed 11 years ago after investigations failed to conclude why their plane vanished, with theories suggesting the pilot lacked experience and might have encountered fuel problems.

There had been speculation there may have been foul play or that the aircraft may have been diverted.

The politicians’ wives had approached the French president to explore if the United States took satellite images of the Tuamotus at the time of the presumed crash.

Nine years ago, a court rejected a request for compensation to be paid to the widow of Boris Léontieff.

Her lawyer, James Lau, told a local newspaper that it was established that Leontieff was under surveillance by the secret service of then-president, Gaston Flosse.

Lau said the same spying effort was directed at Leontieff’s advisor and journalist, Jean-Pascal Couraud, who also disappeared without leaving a trace in 1997.

Researching the affairs of Flosse
Couraud was famous for researching the affairs of Flosse, who ruled a militia known as the GIP.

An investigation was first opened in 2004 after a former spy claimed that Couraud had been kidnapped and killed by the GIP, which dumped him in the sea between Mo’orea and Tahiti.

Murder charges against two members of the now disbanded militia, the GIP, were dismissed a decade later, after incriminating wiretaps were ruled inadmissible because they were obtained illegally.

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

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