Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund Chief and possible French presidential candidate was arrested in New York on Sunday and charged with sexual assault, including attempted rape on a hotel maid.
In a dramatic development, Strauss-Kahn was taken off an Air France plane at the John F Kennedy airport when it was about to take off for Paris. Popularly known by his initials DSK, he was a key player in fighting the international financial crisis and the recent European debt crisis. One of his lawyers said the overseer of the global economic system will plead not guilty.
The socialist leaning Strauss-Kahn was seen as the front runner for French presidential election scheduled to be held next year April-May. However, the news of his arrest has rocked France and his rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her opponent’s presidential hopes remain crushed. Strauss-Kahn and Li Pen were leading ahead of conservative President Nicholas Sarkozy in a recently conducted opinion poll.
Another centrist opponent of Strauss-Kahn, Francois Bayrou said: “All this is completely astounding, immensely troubling and distressing. If the facts prove true … it’s something degrading for all women. It’s terrible for the image of France”.
The sexual assault complaint was filed by a 32 year old maid of $3,000 a night Sofitel Hotal at Times Square. A New York police spokesman Paul Browne said Strauss-Kahn was arrested at 2.15 a.m. after the maid told the detectives that the IMF chief came out of the bathroom naked and pulled her from a foyer to a bedroom and began sexually assaulting her. As she tried to run away, he dragged her to a bathroom and engaged in criminal sexual act.
Strauss-Kahn apparently fled the hotel after trying to lock her up in the hotel room. The New York police have charged Strauss-Kahn with attempted rape, sexual act and imprisonment, Browne said. The IMF chief does not enjoy diplomatic immunity and if convicted of sexual act, may face prison of 15-20 years. Unlawful confinement carries a potential sentence of 3 to 5 years. He is expected to be produced before a state court today.
“The case and the charges … mark the end of his campaign and pre-campaign for the presidency and will most likely prompt the IMF to ask him to leave his post”, Le Pen said in an interview to i-Tele television.
The arrest is surely to cause major embarrassment to the international lending organisation, which has authorised billions of dollars of loans to troubled countries in the eurozone.
“I think we have to grant DSK the presumption of innocence. If all this were true it would be damning”, said conservative French Trade Minister Pierre Lellouche.
Strauss-Kahn had taken over IMF in 2007 for a five year term scheduled to end in 2012.