French patissier jailed in China in 2017 returns home

A French patissier who was imprisoned and then released on conditional parole for two years in China for his part in the 2017 expired flour scandal has arrived back home in France.

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Laurent Fortin - originally from Eure, Normandy - moved to Shanghai in China in 2016 to work as a production manager at a factory for Chinese bakery chain Farine.

In 2017, he and other employees - two French and three Chinese - were arrested after a factory inspection found stocks of expired flour. Mr Fortin was found guilty of using expired flour and to have been primarily responsible for the crime, and was sentenced to two years and five months in jail, plus required to pay a fine of 60,000 yuan (€7,743).

He was imprisoned for nine months, and then released on parole in China in early 2018, just before President Macron arrived in the country on a state visit with Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Mr Fortin was not able to leave the country during this time. His family demanded his return, and asked for the French government to become involved in the case.

A statement from the Quai d’Orsay (foreign affairs ministry) said: “Mr Laurent Fortin arrived back in France on Friday, November 29. Mr Fortin’s situation has been followed at the highest level, and we are happy that he has returned to his country and his family. We thank the Chinese authorities for their cooperation in this case.”

Daniel Fortin, Mr Fortin’s brother, spoke to the Agence France-Presse after Mr Fortin’s return. He said: “He is doing well, but still emotionally shaken. He is at his parents’ house and is resting.”

The brother added that Mr Fortin wanted to thank everyone who had helped him, including “the President of the Republic”.

Hervé Maurey, senator of Mr Fortin’s home department of the Eure, said: “After having regularly questioned and alerted the French authorities on Laurent Fortin’s situation, including the President, who I spoke to personally and directly, I am especially happy [to see Mr Fortin arrive home].”

Two other French people, Marion Cambounet and Damien Ortal, were also charged in connection with the case, but to a lesser extent than Mr Fortin.

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