French police arrest Taiwanese woman convicted of fraud

Woman pocketed public funds while her company organized romantic tours for Chinese tourists

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Lise Han (photo from www.lanouvellerepublique.fr)

Lise Han (photo from www.lanouvellerepublique.fr) (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - Police in France on Wednesday arrested a Taiwanese woman who had been on the run for half a year after being sentenced to four years in prison in a fraud case involving imitation weddings for Chinese tourists.

Between 2007 and 2011, Lise Han (韓麗芳) ran a company in the city of Tours organizing visits to the castles along the Loire river as well as symbolic wedding ceremonies at the town’s city hall, French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

However, at the same time, she had been employed by the city’s socialist mayor, Senator Jean Germain, to improve relations with China.

Han pocketed public funds for her projects, drew an official city government salary, and continued profiting from her company, while receiving 3,000 euros (NT$108,000) from each of the 240 Chinese couples, reports said.

Germain, who reportedly was Han’s lover, denied any involvement in her schemes, but committed suicide shortly before the court case opened in 2015. Earlier, Han had been detained for a while as she tried to leave France to visit her gravely ill father in Taiwan and cut off her ankle monitor, according to the France Bleu news site.

Last February, a court sentenced her to four years, including one year suspended, for several charges including fraud and embezzlement of public funds. She was not present in court to hear the verdict and was listed as disappeared shortly afterward.

A special police unit arrested her in the hinterland of the Mediterranean city of Nice at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Le Figaro reported. In addition to the prison sentence, Han will have to pay back 320,000 euro (NT$11.5 million) to the city and metropolitan area of Tours, reports said.

While not featuring real weddings, the trips she organized included photo opportunities outside castles and historic buildings and even an appearance by the mayor of Tours inside city hall.