Tahiti Black Pearl Group Pushes For $4.5M Payment
Thursday: December 11, 2008
The GIE Perles de Tahiti, which is appealing its liquidation, now wants the Tong Sang government to reimburse it for its share of the suspended Tahiti cultured pearl export tax that was revoked by the Conseil d'Etat in Paris.
The GIE, or economic interest group, is claiming its share of the uncollected tax amounts to nearly 400 million French Pacific francs (US$4.5m/€3.35m), according to a media communiqué from Alfred Martin, the GIE's board chairman.
By recovering such a sum of money, "the GIE Perles de Tahiti, obviously, will no longer be bankrupt, and its masterminded destruction will be doomed to failure," Martin said in his statement.
The Tong Sang government suspended the pearl export tax for the last three months of this year. The 15-year-old non-profit GIE claims that without the tax it was unable to remain in business because that money was what helped allow it to promote the Tahiti cultured pearl and its byproducts throughout the world.
The money collected by long-existing tax was split up on a 60 percent-40 percent basis, with the larger share going to the government. The GIE claims that its share of the pearl export tax represented 95 percent of its financial resources.
Last Friday, the Conseil d'Etat (Council of State), France's Supreme Court for administrative justice, revoked the export tax suspension vote in August by the French Polynesia Assembly. The council ruled that the vote involved a conflict of interest because Michel Yip, a Tuamotu pearl producer, was present when the voting occurred. Yip is also a former pearl minister in a previous government.
The Perles de Tahiti's liquidation appeal case is due to be heard on Dec. 17 by the Papeete Mixed Commercial Court, which ordered the GIE's liquidation on Nov. 24. Martin said he also has initiated proceedings to obtain the annulment of the GIE's liquidation, which is due for a ruling on Jan. 22.
Martin said he based his claim for the 400 million French Pacific franc reimbursement on the government's reported Tahiti cultured pearl exports during October, the first month that the export tax was not collected.
The government's Council of Ministers issued a media communiqué last month reporting that the exports of loose Tahitian pearls increased 84 percent during October.
Martin's communiqué said the GIE represented and defended the interests of "about 80 percent of pearl producers" in French Polynesia. That involves "Polynesian families who have only the production of their pearls and mother-of-pearl shells to live on in their atolls," he said.
Those families refuse "to depend on a few large producers and wholesalers looking to become the only operators in the market and who, to that end, had requested and obtained the" pearl export tax suspension, Martin charged.
Meanwhile, four major Tahiti cultured pearl associations claiming to represent "more than 80 percent" of Tahiti's pearl exports have agreed to regroup and form a new professional organization.
Monday's media communiqué announcing the regrouping made no mention of the former GIE Perles de Tahiti. However, the four associations that met last Thursday to regroup were represented on the GIE's board.
The four associations' presidents are Robert Wan (SPPP), Philippe Chenne (SEPT), Georges Mataoa (SPMPPF) and Elisabeth Moe (GIE Poe o Tahiti Nui). Wan, head of the Robert Wan Group, is the world's biggest producer of Tahitian cultured pearls