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Fall of IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is in Rikers Island prison in New York after he was refused bail on charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid, as prosecutors said they were looking into reports he had engaged in a similar attack before. Looking tired and gaunt in a badly-fitting black raincoat, the unshaven 62-year-old was led into the New York criminal court hearing in handcuffs to face charges over a brutal sexual assault which have left the IMF in disarray and sent shockwaves through French politics, almost certainly ending the presidential hopes of the man tipped as the clear winner against Nicholas Sarkozy in 2012. Strauss-Kahn’s defence lawyers denied the charges against him, but failed in a bid for US$1m bail. “This battle has just begun,” his defence attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told dozens of reporters gathered outside the court. “Mr Strauss-Kahn is innocent of these charges.” After the hearing, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance set out the case against Strauss-Kahn. He is charged with seven crimes, including attempted rape, sexual abuse, forcible touching and unlawful imprisonment, against a 32-year-old hotel maid who had entered his suite at the Sofitel hotel near Times Square at around midday to clean. Conviction carries a prison sentence of up to 74 years.
According to the criminal complaint, Strauss-Kahn shut the door of his hotel room, trapping his alleged victim inside, before grabbing her chest without her consent. John McConnell, an assistant district attorney, said: “He sexually assaulted her and attempted to forcibly rape her,” and when that failed, he forced her to perform oral sex. He said the US authorities were now investigating whether Strauss-Kahn “engaged in conduct similar to the conduct alleged in this complaint on at least one other occasion.” Asked to clarify by the judge, McConnell said the incident took place “in Europe.” In France, writer and journalist Tristane Banon was preparing to file a legal complaint relating to an alleged sexual attack in Paris in 2002. Her lawyer, David Koubbi, said: “We’re planning to make a complaint.” Strauss-Kahn did not enter a plea and was remanded to stay in prison until a hearing on Friday after prosecutors argued that the IMF head, who had been detained in the first-class cabin of an Air France jet about to take off for Paris hours after the alleged attack, was a flight risk “like Roman Polanski.” District attorney Daniel Alonso compared Strauss-Kahn to the French-Polish film director who fled the US after having sex with an underage girl and has avoided extradition ever since. Alonso said France had no extradition treaty with the US and Strauss-Kahn was a wealthy man who had been arrested attempting to flee the country.
Brafman, who previously successfully defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges, said it was “quite likely” his client would be “exonerated” and disputed he was trying to flee. Instead, Brafman said his client had a lunch meeting near the hotel and that his lunch partner would be able to testify. He said hotel security found out he was at the airport only after they called him and he told them where he was. He said Strauss-Kahn had been booked on to the Air France flight to Paris for some time.
The IMF is holding talks on how to react to the court hearing. Strauss-Kahn’s wife, the millionaire former television presenter Anne Sinclair, who has declared she believes he is innocent, was expected to fly to New York. She had offered to pay bail. In Paris, the ruling rightwing UMP said the allegations had seriously damaged France’s image abroad. The environment minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, said: “In addition to the presumed victim—the chambermaid—there is another proved victim, that is France. It must be reiterated that these charges are very serious, in France there is a tendency to treat this somewhat lightly.” She brushed aside the growing suggestions among some French politicians that this could be a plot or trap to bring down the 2012 presidential frontrunner. She had “confidence in the American justice system.” She added: “It’s so French to see conspiracies everywhere, it’s something in our culture I think.”
Images of Strauss-Kahn with his hands handcuffed behind his back and escorted by police shocked France, where famous figures are usually allowed to leave unseen by underground passageways.
The Socialist party leader, Martine Aubry, said the pictures, which dominated all news bulletins, were “profoundly humiliating.” The Socialist MP and Strauss-Kahn supporter Manuel Valls said the images were “of an unbearable cruelty” and were so staggering that “for French political life, there will be a before and an after” this moment. Giving more details of the allegations Strauss-Kahn is to face in France, David Koubbi, Banon’s lawyer, told French radio: “There are a number of elements, facts, which prove what she is saying. So, to the question that some people might legitimately ask—is she making it up?—the answer is no.” Banon had previously made the allegation on television in 2007 and in an interview with a news Web site, but had not gone to police.
She said on television she had gone to interview Strauss-Kahn, who had first insisted on holding her hand, then made sexual advances. “It ended really badly. We ended up fighting,” she said. “It finished really violently. We fought on the floor. It wasn’t a case of a couple of slaps. I kicked him, he unhooked my bra, he tried to open my jeans.” She said he had acted like a “rutting chimpanzee.” On radio, Strauss-Kahn’s political ally, Socialist Jean-Marie Le Guen, dismissed the Banon case as ill-founded. Under French law, sexual assault charges must be filed within three years but attempted rape charges can be brought up to 10 years after the alleged attack. Banon did not file charges at the time of the alleged assault after her mother, Anne Mansouret, a local Socialist party councillor and Strauss-Kahn’s friend, persuaded her against it. She says she now regrets that decision.
Biography: Dominique Strauss-Kahn assumed office as the tenth managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on November 1, 2007. Upon being selected by the IMF’s board of executive directors, Strauss-Kahn indicated that he will press ahead with reform of the 186-member country institution that helps oversee the global economy. Prior to taking up his position at the IMF, Strauss-Kahn was a member of the French National Assembly and professor of economics at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. From 2001 to 2007, he was reelected three times to the National Assembly, and in 2006, he ran for the Socialist Party’s nomination for the French presidential election. In 2000 and 2001, he taught economics at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and was named visiting professor at Stanford University. He was also a personal advisor to the secretary general of the OECD.
Earlier, Strauss-Kahn served as Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry of France from June 1997 to November 1999. In this capacity, he managed the launch of the Euro. He also represented France on the board of governors of a number of international financial institutions, including the IMF. Between 1993 and 1997, he was in the private sector as a corporate lawyer. From 1991 to 1993, Strauss-Kahn served as Minister of Industry and International Trade, during which time he participated in the Uruguay round of trade negotiations. Strauss-Kahn began his career as assistant professor, then professor of economics at the University of Paris where he was tenured in 1978. He was then appointed deputy commissioner of the Economic Planning Agency (1981-1986).
He was elected deputy (Member of Parliament) to the National Assembly (1986), where he chaired the Finance Commission from 1988 to 1991. Strauss-Kahn holds a Phd in economics from the University of Paris. He also graduated in law, in business administration, in political studies, and in statistics. As an academic, his research fields include household saving behaviour, public finance, and social policy. A French national, Strauss-Kahn was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, on April 25, 1949, and spent his early years in Morocco.
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