LONDON, UK – Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, said Tuesday that the one-time French presidential hopeful was being hounded for his “libertine ways” and that they would challenge a formal investigation into his alleged involvement in a prostitution ring.
Meanwhile in New York, a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in a civil case in which a hotel maid has accused Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, the Associated Press reported. Strauss-Kahn quit the IMF after the maid, an immigrant from Guinea, insisted he sexually assaulted her in May. Criminal charges were later dropped.
Henri Leclerc, one of three lawyers representing Strauss-Kahn in the French case, said his client’s active “libertine” lifestyle had made him a target and that the evidence against him was “hollow,” according to the BBC.
Leclerc predicted the case against the 62-year-old would collapse.
“The offences alleged against DSK [Dominique Strauss-Kahnn] are non-existent. In reality, there is nothing to charge him with,” he said, according to The Financial Times.
Investigating magistrates in the northern French city of Lille placed Strauss-Kahn, who faces preliminary charges of procuring prostitutes and involvement in an “organized gang,” under formal investigation yesterday.
He was released on bail of €100,000 ($135,000), and faces up to 20 years in prison if tried and convicted.
Strauss-Kahn was once viewed as a likely Socialist Party candidate in France’s presidential elections next month, but was forced to park his political ambitions and quit as IMF chief after being charged in New York with the attempted rape of a hotel maid last year.
That case was later dropped, but a civil suit brought by the maid against Strauss-Kahn will begin in New York on Wednesday. He has always insisted he is innocent.
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Investigators are examining whether Strauss-Kahn, who is married to the well-known journalist Anne Sinclair, knew he was consorting with pimps and prostitutes when he attended sex parties organized by business acquaintances in Lille, Paris and Washington.
The scandal has been dubbed the “Carlton affair” over the hotel in Lille where orgies were held. Police are investigating allegations that Strauss-Kahn’s business associates were involved in a vice ring, and used embezzled funds to pay call girls. Eight people have already been arrested in the case.
While prostitution in legal in France, it is against the law to profit from vice or misuse corporate funds to pay for prostitutes.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Leclerc protested his client’s innocence, saying: “There’s no serious evidence to suggest that Dominique Strauss-Kahn knew that these women were paid.”
“Certainly Dominque Strauss-Kahn has attended a certain number of parties with women, libertine parties with female friends and women who were friends of his friends,” he continued, Reuters reports.
“You can say what you like about that on the moral level, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not against the criminal law. They are trying to ban a sort of crime of lust. He’s being attacked over his libertine behaviour.”
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With less than a month to go before the French head to the polls to elect a new president, former Socialist Party allies of Strauss-Kahn are distancing themselves from the affair, the Agence France Presse reports.
Socialist candidate François Hollande told radio station France Bleu that the new case against Strauss-Kahn was a “private matter” and “not something that I have to make a political judgement about,” while Hollande’s campaign director, Pierre Moscovici, said it was “time for the justice system to go to work,” adding:
“Everyone can see this has nothing to do with the Socialist Party.”