Monday, October 20, 2008

french defence minister to rule on secret files

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PARIS (Oceania Flash/Pacific Media Watch):
Most of the files seized as part of recent investigations in French Polynesia could be made available to a judge based in Pape'ete who is currently investigating possible links between this French Pacific territory and former French President Jacques Chirac, as well as alleged bank accounts in Japan, French media reported at the weekend.

The files, seized since June this year in the French Polynesian capital Pape'ete, belong to the French secret service, the DGSE.

They have since remained inaccessible because they were classified as "secret defence" information.

Pape'ete-based judge Jean-François Redonnet, who ordered the searches, had asked permission to use these files.

Ruling on the issue, a consultative commission on national defence secret files, decided that of the 17 files, 16 should be declassified.

The decision was published in the French Republic's official gazette last week.

However, the final ruling is yet to be delivered by the French Defence Minister.

Since June this year and more recently, late September, metropolitan France's financial police have conducted a series of raids in French Polynesia, where the team is currently investigating a series of cases, including one involving former President Gaston Flosse.

As part of one of its later searches, on September 24, the squad (from the National Division of Financial investigations, DNIF) raided Flosse's home.

The investigations also included a controversial case into the mysterious disappearance of local journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud (nicknamed "JPK") in December 1997, when Flosse was President of French Polynesia.

Couraud's family have since repeatedly alleged that JPK had been assassinated by members of a so-called "intervention group", the GIP, which Flosse set up a few years earlier.

Couraud was investigating possible links between Flosse and then French President Jacques Chirac and information that he could have unveiled on a secret bank account located in Japan.

The investigators "were obviously looking for information that could back-up the theory that the journalist's disappearance was linked to information he could have held to give credit to the existence of former President of the Republic (Chirac)'s "Japanese account'", fed by Gaston Flosse's party, Tahoeraa Huiraatira stated at the time in a release.

Tahoeraa Huiraatira offices were also searched.

"The inspectors have found nothing at the residence of the Senator (Flosse) that could give credit to this theory … (Flosse) reaffirms that he has nothing to do in the disappearance of the former journalist… French judiciary have favoured for several years the suicide or voluntary disappearance of JPK, and then a new inquest has been launched, as a result of a politically-motivated manipulation", the release says.

Couraud's disappearance was first treated as a suicide, but since last year, a change of magistrate in charge of the inquest has reactivated the murder theory.

The new approach was based on revelations made by a former GIP member, Vetea Guilloux, who explained Couraud had first been kidnapped, then tortured and eventually drowned in waters somewhere between the main island of Tahiti and neighbouring Moorea Island.

Guilloux, however, has since withdrawn his earlier statements.

Couraud's body was never found.

Flosse has just been re-elected as one of French Polynesia's two members of the French Senate, despite the open disapproval from French ruling party, the UMP which, this year, had decided to back current President Gaston Tong Sang and a former member of the French National Assembly, Béatrice Vernaudon.

Radio investigative programme rewarded

One of the more recent investigative reports carried out on the "JPK" case, a feature documentary by French national radio France Inter, was at the weekend awarded the International Investigation Award by the Paris-based French Journalist Training Centre (CFJ).

The audio documentary, entitled Sharks in Troubled Waters/A counter-investigation on the JPK case, was conducted by French Journalist Benoît Colombat and was aired first late last year as part of the France Inter programme Interception.

There have since been attempts coming from French Polynesia to ban the broadcasting of the documentary.

Sharks in Troubled Waters, which was first aired mid-December 2007, will be broadcast again on November 2, France Inter announced at the weekend.

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