IMF chief to be charged over sex attack in hotel

IMF chief and possible French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn is expected to be arrested and charged overnight with an alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid in New York City, police said on Saturday.

Strauss-Kahn, one of the world’s top international diplomats responsible for handling financial crises, was taken into custody at JFK airport after boarding an Air France plane bound for Paris, New York police spokesperson Paul Browne said.

“We anticipate he is going to be formally arrested and charged in an hour,” NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne said at about 11.15pm EDT (3.15am GMT on Sunday).

“He will be charged with a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment.”

A 32-year-old maid filed a sexual assault complaint after fleeing a hotel room at the upscale Sofitel in Times Square where the alleged incident occurred, Browne said.


Strauss-Kahn (62) who has been considered a possible Socialist Party candidate in the French presidential election next April, left the hotel after the incident, the police spokesperson said.

“She told detectives he came out of the bathroom naked, ran down a hallway to the foyer where she was, pulled her into a bedroom and began to sexually assault her, according to her account,” Browne said.

“She pulled away from him and he dragged her down a hallway into the bathroom where he engaged in a criminal sexual act, according to her account to detectives. He tried to lock her into the hotel room,” Browne added.

Browne said he does not have diplomatic immunity. He is expected to be brought to court on Sunday.

The allegation will be a major embarrassment to the straight-laced IMF, which has billions of dollars in lending programs to troubled countries and plays a major role in the euro zone debt crisis. It follows the announcement on Thursday the IMF’s number two official, John Lipsky, plans to step down in August when his term ends.

The IMF managing director has yet to say whether he will run for president, although French opinion polls put him as a clear winner over conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy if the two faced off in an election.

“The NYPD realised he had fled, he had left his cellphone behind,” Browne said. “We learned he was on an Air France plane. They held the plane and he was taken off and is now being held in police custody for questioning.”

The maid “was brought by EMS [emergency medical services] to the Roosevelt Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries,” Browne said.

Strauss-Kahn took over the International Monetary Fund in November 2007 for a five-year term scheduled to end next year.

Before that, he was a French finance minister, member of the French National Assembly and a professor of economics at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris.

The IMF declined to comment and IMF board officials told Reuters they had not been informed officially of the incident.

Past controversy
Strauss-Kahn has faced controversy before. In October 2008, he apologised for “an error of judgement” for an affair with a female IMF economist who was his subordinate. An inquiry cleared him of harassment and abuse of power, although he was warned by the fund’s board of member countries against further improper conduct.

Strauss-Kahn apologised to the woman, Piroska Nagy, and his wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, as well as to IMF employees for the trouble he had caused.

Since taking over the IMF, he has won plaudits for putting the fund, the world’s main overseer of the global economic system, at the center of global efforts to cope with the financial meltdown of 2007/09.

Strauss-Kahn introduced sweeping changes at the global institution to ensure that countries swamped by the financial collapse had access to emergency loans. He was pivotal in brokering a bailout programme for Iceland, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, and recently Portugal.

He has also overseen internal changes that have given emerging market countries, such as China, India and Brazil, greater voting power in the institution, and weighed into thornier issues by urging China to allow its currency to rise in value in a dispute with the United States.

Based in Washington at the IMF’s headquarters, Strauss-Kahn has continued to spend a lot of time in France, fanning speculation he was considering re-entering politics as a presidential candidate.

Lipsky’s planned departure and now Strauss-Kahn’s detention raises questions about a possible leadership vacuum should the IMF chief be charged by US authorities or face possible discipline by the IMF board. – Reuters

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Lesley Wroughton
Lesley Wroughton works from Washington. I write about U.S. Foreign Policy for Reuters based in Washington. Opinions are my own and retweets are not an endorsement. Lesley Wroughton has over 1577 followers on Twitter.

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