International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer says his client will plead not guilty but regardless of the outcome, the scandal seems to have destroyed his chances of running for president of France. The IMF leader was removed from the first-class section of a Paris-bound Air France flight at JFK airport in New York and was taken into custody Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning he was formally charged with committing a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment.
Police officials say that 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn allegedly sexually assaulted a 32-year-old maid in his $3,000-a-night suite at the Sofitel Hotel near Times Square. The alleged victim reportedly entered Strauss-Kahn’s room at around 1 p.m. Saturday, unaware that the IMF head was still inside. After some conflicting reports when the news first broke Saturday night, the Associated Press reported Sunday that the alleged victim told police Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from the bathroom and chased her down the hallway. He then allegedly pulled her into his bedroom and when she fought off his attacks, “he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear.” She then escaped and informed hotel staff what had happened. The New York Times hears word from a law enforcement source that investigators have "uncovered forensic evidence that would contain DNA." Strauss-Kahn’s wife Anne Sinclair issued a statement: “I do not believe for a single second the accusations leveled against my husband.”
A police spokesman said that it looked like Strauss-Kahn left in a hurry because they found his cellphone in the room. The New York Post says that he also left “other personal items” although doesn’t specify what those were. According to the paper, Strauss-Kahn, who took over the leadership of the IMF in late 2007, has a special deal with Air France that allows him to get on any flight. It wasn’t clear why Strauss-Kahn was in New York but he was scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin Sunday. The IMF leadership has now been thrown into disarray and the organization is considering holding a board meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss how to carry on, reports the Wall Street Journal, noting it’s unlikely it will come to a decision. The Fund’s No. 2 official, John Lipsky, has been named acting managing director.
This is not the first time Strauss-Kahn, nicknamed “the great seducer,” has been involved in a scandal. In 2008, he was involved in a scandal when it came to light that he was having an affair with a Hungarian economist who was his subordinate. The IMF stood by him, concluding he had shown poor judgment but didn’t abuse his power and the relationship was consensual. Despite that high-profile incident, Strauss-Kahn has largely been praised for his work in leading a transformation of the IMF following the financial crisis.
Whatever ends up happening with the New York incident, the news has already rocked the French political world. France woke up in shock Sunday to news of the arrest, which was met with “stunned disbelief and expressions of national humiliation,” reports the New York Times. Strauss-Kahn was widely seen as the leading contender to become the Socialist candidate for the country’s presidency. Over the last few months “polls have suggested that Strauss-Kahn is the only potential opposition candidate who might unseat [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy in next year’s elections,” notes the Guardian. Indeed, analysts have long said the reason why Sarkozy pushed for Strauss-Kahn to run the IMF was because the president saw him as a strong rival and wanted him to get out of Paris.
Before Saturday’s incident his reputation had taken a hit due to media reports of his luxurious lifestyle that some say is inappropriate for someone who wants to become the leader of the French left. His allies have described the reports as a smear campaign, and Strauss-Kahn is suing a newspaper over its reports. But, of course, that pales in comparison to the New York allegations and even as many cautioned against jumping to conclusions Sunday, political insiders were quick to declare Strauss-Kahn’s political death. "The most likely outcome is that this case will stick and even if he pleads not guilty, which he may be, he won't be able to be candidate for the Socialist primary for the presidency and he won't be able to stay at the IMF," prominent Socialist Jacques Attali said.