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French ex-mayor commits suicide at start of ‘Chinese weddings’ fraud trial
  • | AFP | April 07, 2015 06:00 PM
The former mayor of the French city of Tours committed suicide Tuesday at the beginning of a trial in which he was accused of letting a Taiwanese businesswoman defraud the city in the so-called “Chinese weddings” scandal.



Former Tours mayor Jean Germain in 2009 with 31 Chinese couples  

Jean Germain, 67, who had been mayor of Tours from 1995 to 2014 and was also a serving Socialist Senator, was voted out of office last year in the wake of the scandal.

Co-accused Lise Han, a Taiwanese businesswoman employed by the city to promote “relationships with China”, allegedly used her position to make tens of thousands of euros for herself. She is accused of fraud, collusion and mishandling public funds.

Han was the brainchild behind schemes that included inviting groups of Chinese newly-weds to visit Tours and the surrounding Loire Valley, and “remarry” in fake ceremonies presided over by Germain. The fake weddings took place between 2007 and 2011.

While the fake ceremonies were not illegal, Han, who was a full-time employee of Tours city hall, is accused of enriching herself at the local taxpayer’s expense by continuing to run firm Time-Lotus Bleu, subcontracted to the city to organise the tours.

Germain, who claimed he was unaware of Han’s “lies and manipulations”, was due to stand trial for complicity in the misappropriation of public funds.

The trial was due to open in Tours on Tuesday morning. It was suspended when Germain failed to attend, and his lawyer Dominique Tricaud subsequently read a note that had been found in the politician’s car.

“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,” Germain wrote, adding that he believed his trial was “politically motivated”.

“There are people for whom dishonour and injustice are unbearable.”

Police confirmed they had found Germain’s body near his home shortly after his lawyer made his statement. “We’re looking at a suicide,” a police source said.

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