Self-styled Polynesian 'king' convicted for issuing fake money

PAPEETE, France (AFP) - A self-styled "king" who claims to rule over an unrecognised "republic" in French Polynesia was convicted by a Tahiti court on Wednesday for issuing fake money.

Athanase Teiri, a 59-year-old retired civil servant who describes himself as "Tanginui Hoe" (Tanguini the 1st), monarch of the fictitious "Pakumotu Republic", was not in the courtroom in Papeete to hear the verdict or the six-month sentence handed down to him.

But several of his "ministers" attended in the public gallery.

Teiri was convicted after one of his daughters printed off "Patus" - bits of paper meant to be the currency of Pakumotu. When some of Teiri's "subjects" tried to use them as payment in shops, he ran afoul of French laws governing money and its use.

Through his spokesman, he rejected the jurisdiction of the court.

"Since June 2, 2010, the king has declared this country to be independent.

France no longer has authority. A state cannot judge another state," the spokesman said.

Teiri's supporters affirmed they would continue to print their own money.

That could cause some confusion in French Polynesia, where new banknotes - legal tender - were introduced this week.

Authorities on the archipelago, which is a dependent territory of France, have become increasingly irritated with the "Pakumotu Republic" and its followers, especially after they tried to occupy public land.

But Teiri has brazenly forged on, even issuing so-called "arrest warrants" against various officials.

The "republic"'s would be "defence minister" told AFP that the Pakumotu followers want to act freely on "their territory".