IMF Chief Arrested
The leader of the International Monetary Fund, a possible candidate for president of France, was yanked from an airplane moments before it was to depart for Paris and arrested in the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid, police said.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, was arrested on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. He had been taken off the Air France flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday afternoon by police officers.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told The Associated Press that his client will plead not guilty at his expected Sunday afternoon arraignment.
"He denies all the charges against him," Brafman said. "And that's all I can really say right now."
France woke to the news Sunday with a measure of surprise.
Strauss-Kahn was expected to be the main challenger against President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging, in next year's presidential elections. The arrest could shake up the race and throw the long-divided Socialists back into disarray about who they could present as Sarkozy's opponent.
"It's a cross that will be difficult for him to bear," said Dominique Paille, a political rival to Strauss-Kahn on the center right, on BFM television.
"It's totally hallucinating. If it is true, this would be a historic moment, but in the negative sense, for French political life," Paille said. Still, he urged, "I hope that everyone respects the presumption of innocence. I cannot manage to believe this affair."
It wasn't clear why Strauss-Kahn was in New York. The IMF is based in Washington, and he was due in Germany on Sunday. His attorney declined to answer questions beyond saying his client denied the charges.
Strauss-Kahn checked into the luxury Sofitel hotel not far from Manhattan's Times Square Friday afternoon, police said.
The 32-year-old maid told authorities that she entered his suite early Saturday afternoon and he attacked her, New York Police Department spokesman Paul J. Browne. She said she had been told to clean the spacious $3,000-a-night suite, which she thought was empty.
According to an account the woman provided to police, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her. She said she fought him off, then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.
When detectives arrived moments later, Strauss-Kahn had already left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone, Browne said. "It looked like he got out of there in a hurry," Browne said.
The NYPD discovered he was at the airport and contacted officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. Port Authority officers plucked Strauss-Kahn from first class on the Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate.
The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was being treated for minor injuries. John Sheehan, a spokesman for the hotel, said its staff was cooperating in the investigation.
In sexual assault cases, it is procedure for detectives to look for DNA and forensic evidence and signs of trauma.
The accusations come amid French media reports about Strauss-Kahn's lifestyle, including luxury cars and suits, that some have dubbed a smear campaign.
The married father of four is known as DSK in France, but media there also have dubbed him "the great seducer." His reputation as a charmer of women has not hurt his career in France, where politicians' private lives traditionally come under less scrutiny than in the United States.
In 2008, Strauss-Kahn was briefly investigated over whether he had an improper relationship with a subordinate female employee. The IMF board found that the relationship was consensual, but called his actions "regrettable" and said they "reflected a serious error of judgment."
The IMF employee left the fund and took a job with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Strauss-Kahn issued an apology, writing in an email to IMF staff that he showed poor judgment but didn't abuse his position.
Caroline Atkinson, an IMF spokeswoman, issued a statement Sunday that said the agency would have no comment on the New York case. She referred all inquiries to Strauss-Kahn's personal lawyer and said the "IMF remains fully functioning and operational."
Strauss-Kahn's offices in Paris couldn't be reached when the news broke overnight in France. One of his allies, Jean-Marie Le Guen, expressed doubt about the case.
"The facts as they've been reported today have nothing to do with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn that we know," Le Guen said on BFM television. "Dominique Strauss-Kahn has never exhibited violence toward people close to him, to anyone."
Strauss-Kahn was supposed to be meeting in Berlin on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about aid to debt-laden Greece, and then join EU finance ministers in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. The IMF is responsible for one-third of Greece's existing loan package, and his expected presence at these meetings underlined the gravity of the Greek crisis.
Strauss-Kahn took over as head of the IMF in November 2007. The 187-nation lending agency provides help in the form of emergency loans for countries facing severe financial problems.
He won praise for his leadership during the financial crisis of 2008 and the severe global recession that followed.
More recently, he has directed the IMF's participation in bailout efforts to keep a European debt crisis, which began in Greece from destabilizing the global economy.
Before taking the top post at the IMF, Strauss-Kahn had been a member of the French National Assembly and had also served as France's Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry from June 1997 to November 1999.
More recently, Strauss-Kahn was seen as the strongest possible challenger to Sarkozy. He has not declared his candidacy, staying vague in interviews while feeding speculation that he wants France's top job.
He sought the Socialist Party's endorsement in the last elections, in 2007, but came in second in a primary to Segolene Royal. Royal, the first woman to get so close to France's presidency, lost to Sarkozy in the runoff.
After Sarkozy won, the new president championed Strauss-Kahn as a candidate to run the IMF. Sarkozy's backers touted the move as a sign of the conservative president's campaign of openness to leftists — but political strategists saw it as a way for Sarkozy to get a potential challenger far away from the French limelight.
Royal, who continues to harbor presidential ambitions of her own, was cautious about the allegations, saying Sunday that Strauss-Kahn has the right to the presumption of innocence.
Strauss-Kahn is credited with preparing France for the adoption of the euro by taming its deficit and persuading then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to sign up to an EU pact of fiscal prudence.
A former economics professor, Strauss-Kahn joined the Socialist party in 1976 and was elected to parliament in 1986 from the Val-d'Oise district, north of Paris. He went on to become mayor of Sarcelles, a working-class immigrant suburb of Paris.
His first government post was industry minister under former President Francois Mitterrand.
Re: IMF Chief Arrested
Looks like another case of someone in a position of power thinking they can abuse it and get away with anything.
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Re: IMF Chief Arrested
Dirty old bugger
I am not not licking toads
Strauss-Kahn's House Arrest to End
** UPDATE **Strauss-Kahn's House Arrest to End