Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned to Paris on Sunday for the first time since a New York hotel cleaner accused him of attempted rape in a torrid sex scandal that scuppered his hopes for the French presidency.
Strauss-Kahn and his wife Anne Sinclair arrived at dawn at Charles de Gaulle airport on an Air France flight from New York and were whisked off in a black Peugeot to their apartment in the chic Place des Vosges.
Surrounded by a large number of police, they were smiling but made no statement to journalists waiting for their arrival at the airport and again declined to comment when they arrived at their home in the heart of Paris.
Strauss-Kahn, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, boarded the flight at New York’s JFK International airport late on Saturday, less than two weeks after sexual assault charges against him were dropped.
The 62-year-old resigned as the IMF’s managing director in May after he was arrested at JFK airport and charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of the Sofitel hotel maid.
Last week he walked free when a judge dismissed charges against him. Prosecutors said they could not pursue the case because the accuser’s lies had made it impossible to prove her accusations beyond a reasonable doubt.
‘Terrible and unjust ordeal’
The respected French economist and former finance minister had been expected to be President Nicolas Sarkozy’s main challenger in 2012 elections before the scandal broke in May, but the saga has left his political career in tatters.
His imminent return has caused embarrassment for France’s opposition Socialist Party as it prepares to vote in a primary to choose a candidate to run against Sarkozy in the presidential election next April and May.
“I’m eager to return to my country,” Strauss-Kahn told reporters outside his home in Lower Manhattan on August 23 after the charges against him were dropped, calling the legal saga a “terrible and unjust ordeal”.
“I’ll speak at greater length once I’m back in France.”
In a written statement, he said the three-month-long legal process had been a “nightmare for me and my family”.
The case against Strauss-Kahn began to unravel weeks after his arrest when prosecutors said his accuser had been caught lying on her asylum application form, including about a gang rape she had suffered in her native Guinea.
Strauss-Kahn’s legal travails however are not yet over.
The New York hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, has filed a civil suit seeking unspecified damages against Strauss-Kahn.
In a separate case in France, 32-year-old writer Tristane Banon has filed a complaint alleging the Socialist politician tried to rape her after luring her to a Paris flat in 2003.
Strauss-Kahn has said he will sue Banon for defamation, alleging she invented the story to help publicise her writing.