French ex-mayor commits suicide hours before Chinese weddings trial

French ex-mayor commits suicide hours before Chinese weddings trial
A file photo taken on May 7, 2009 shows a group of 31 recently married Chinese couples from the city of Tianjin posing with then Mayor of Tours Jean Germain in front of townhall of Tours, center France, during the fifth "romantic marriage" event.

TOURS, France - A former French mayor committed suicide on Tuesday just hours before he was due to stand trial for his role in a scheme to charge Chinese couples for mock wedding ceremonies in the picturesque Loire Valley city of Tours.

France, the world's most popular tourist destination, draws thousands of Chinese couples each year who have themselves photographed in wedding outfits in Paris or other romantic settings, such as the chateaus for which the Loire is famous.

Jean Germain was accused of being complicit between 2007 and 2011 in a scheme run by a former aide organising wedding tours that included a fake ceremony in Tours town hall.

In a suicide note whose contents were relayed by his lawyer, Germain wrote that he had only acted with the aim of boosting local tourism and that he had not benefited personally. His aide was the head of the firm that organised the wedding tours.

No details were available on how much was charged for the weddings nor how many took place.

More than 1.5 million Chinese tourists visit France every year and are an important source of revenue, notably for the big Parisian department stores.

The government wants to double that number and has announced that Chinese officials would patrol some Paris sites jointly with French counterparts to reassure Chinese tourists after media reports from both countries about muggings targeting them.

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