Pacific Media Watch

16 December 2017

TAHITI: 20 years on, case of 'JPK''s disappearance no closer to solving

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Journalist and editor Jean-Pascal Couraud ... "sensitive documents" alleged to have led to his death. Image: Polynesie1ere

PAPE’ETE, Tahiti (RNZ Pacific/Pacific Media Watch): Two decades on since the day French Polynesian journalist Jean-Pascal Couraud - known simply as “JPK” – disappeared, his family remain convinced he was the victim of a political assassination, reports RNZ Pacific journalist Walter Zweifel.

JPK was believed to be investigating links between former territorial President Gaston Flosse, for decades the most powerful local politician in Tahiti, and French President Jacques Chirac.

His brother Philippe Couraud said JPK had documents that could have damaged Flosse and his associates in Paris.

JPK had a career at the local newspaper Les Nouvelles de Tahiti and became its editor but was forced to quit under pressure from Flosse, reports Zweifel.

He subsequently joined the opposition politician Boris Leontieff as an adviser and worked for him when he disappeared – on 15 December 1997, according to his family headstone.

JPK’s brother Philippe said JPK had “sensitive information”.

"We discovered a paper of 12 to 13 pages which was in possession of my brother, and in fact it was because he had this information that he was killed," he said.
Secret service report

"At the time, they were looking into financing over in Tahiti and they saw that part of the money had gone to Japan. So the local representative to the state attorney had asked Paris for help to define where the money would have gone in Japan and he got a message back saying stop, do not enquire in that direction, you're getting close to the top of the state. That, I published at the time and nobody ever denied it."

French media reports, however, said Japanese authorities had found no record of any bank account alleged to have been held by Chirac, reports Zweifel.

“This came despite a French secret service report in 1996 mentioning it,” RNZ Pacific said.

Over the past 20 years, the mystery has stirred allegations, counter-accusations, and charges of murder – later dropped on legal technicalities – and intrigue.

Two members of Flosse's presidential security force, the now disbanded GIP, were accused of JPK's murder.

Flosse, who has since been disbarred from public office over corruption allegations, later denied ordering any killing.

Whatever the possible reason for JPK's disappearance, reports Zweifel, Philippe Couraud remains convinced his brother was killed.

Kidnap suspects
Police investigations have been running since 2004 but for the lawyers of those suspected of kidnapping JPK "it's more likely that yeti exists than Jean-Paul Couraud was murdered", reports Zweifel.

“Today, members of [JPK's] family are at his empty grave in Punaaiua, remembering a son, a father, a brother.”

“They remain convinced that in 1997 he was the target of foul play and killed for researching the affairs of the then strongman and president Gaston Flosse.”

+ Read Walter Zweifel's full RNZ article

+ Tahiti television report on the disappearance of 'JPK' in 2013

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