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.
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.
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.
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.
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.