Europe

France senator found dead before 'Chinese weddings' trial

Forty Chinese married couples are pictured after the confirmation of their wedding by Tours' mayor Jean Germain (C), 09 October 2007 in Tours, France Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The former mayor - here pictured with couples in 2007, wearing his sash - denied profiting from bridal tours for Chinese spouses arranged by a city employee

A French Socialist senator has been found dead on the day he was due to stand trial for corruption over Chinese wedding tours in the Loire valley.

Jean Germain, the ex-mayor of Tours, was accused of illegally profiting from a business that arranged for Chinese tourists to renew their wedding vows against historic backdrops in the city.

The 67-year-old left a "goodbye letter" denying the charges.

His death has sent shock through France's political circles.

President Francois Hollande expressed sadness, while Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he had "lost a friend", saying Mr Germain had "hugely changed" the city of Tours.

'Unbearable'

The trial was suspended on Tuesday after Mr Germain failed to attend.

The former mayor was found dead near to his home, according to reports. Police sources were quoted as saying the death was believed to be suicide.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Germain confirmed the weddings during a ceremony inside the City Hall in Tours
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The couples then posed for photographs against historic backdrops such as Chenonceau castle

In a letter given to media outlets (in French) by his lawyer, Mr Germain said the charges were "unbearable" and politically motivated.

"I have never defrauded the city for a single cent, nor made myself rich, and I have always worked for what I believed was in the best interests of the people of Tours," he wrote.

'Romantic'

Hundreds of Chinese couples flocked to Tours on the wedding packages between 2007 and 2011.

The owner of the private company that organised the trips was arrested in 2013 and stands accused of embezzlement.

Lise Han allegedly ran the company at the same time as working at the City Hall in Tours on tourism issues.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The couples had already married in China but dreamed of a wedding in France
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tours City Hall provided a romantic setting for the ceremonies

The trips did not include a real wedding ceremony but couples travelled long distances for these "romantic wedding" packages and were photographed in wedding attire in beautiful locations, including the Tours City Hall.

The mayor even posed with the couples in his full official dress.

He was accused of complicity in illegal kickbacks and embezzlement of public funds.

Mr Germain said he was in the dark about Ms Han's "lies and manipulations" but admitted he had made mistakes by failing to detect the scheme.

Related Topics

More on this story