Former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn goes on trial in his native France on Monday on charges of ‘aggravated pimping’ that stem from sex parties he attended in the northern city of Lille. He denies wrongdoing but the case will see the disgraced ex-politician hitting the headlines again for all the wrong reasons.
So how did it all come to this?
Who is DSK?
Dominique Strauss-Kahn was born in the chic Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, on April 25, 1949, but spent his childhood years in Morocco. By the late 1970s his intellectual brilliance had earned him a post as professor of economics at the University of Paris. He was then appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Economic Planning Agency, serving from 1981 to 1986.
Journey into politics
Politics was also a passion and Strauss-Kahn, known as DSK, was elected as a deputy to France’s National Assembly in 1986, where he chaired the Finance Committee from 1988 to 1991. An architect of France’s economic recovery in the late 1990s, Strauss-Kahn served in a Socialist government as finance minister from 1997-99, cutting the public deficit.
But controversy was not far away and DSK resigned from Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s government in 1999 after being caught up in a corruption scandal over a student insurance fund. A court later cleared him.
Head of the IMF
Defeated for the Socialist nomination for the 2007 presidential election by Segolène Royal, Strauss-Kahn was surprisingly proposed as a candidate to run the IMF by the eventual winner, Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative rival.
Taking over the IMF in November 2007, Strauss-Kahn was at the peak of his career. He won praise for putting the Washington-based Fund at the centre of global efforts to cope with the financial meltdown of 2007-09. He introduced sweeping changes to help countries in need, and oversaw reforms that gave emerging market countries greater voting power in the institution.
No stranger to controversy
But already at the IMF, Strauss-Kahn was no stranger to controversy about his private and public life. He was the subject of an internal investigation in 2008 over possible abuse of power after an affair with a senior IMF economist who subsequently left the Fund. The probe cleared him of abuse of power and he apologised publicly for “a serious error of judgment”.
Despite the negative press, Strauss-Kahn remained a strong contender for his country’s presidency – the bright hope of a Socialist Party seeking to defeat conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.
Destiny changes in incident with maid
But just before opportunity knocked, a brief visit to New York in May 2011 was to change DSK’s destiny. A hotel maid accused the economist of sexual assault in his $3,000-a-night suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel in Manhattan.
The maid, Nafissatou Diallo, was taken to hospital and released after treatment. DSK, meanwhile, had lunch with his daughter before driving to John F. Kennedy International Airport to catch an Air France flight to Paris. Police boarded the flight minutes before it was due to depart and detained him.
Strip-searched upon arrival at New York’s Rikers Island jail after being charged with attempted rape, DSK is still remembered by many as a dishevelled figure in handcuffs, marching past television cameras in a so-called ‘walk of shame’.
The images shocked observers in his native France, where such pictures are prohibited from publication before a conviction. He pleaded not guilty in court and vehemently protested his innocence. But amid an international uproar surrounding the scandal, Strauss-Kahn quit the IMF.
Released on bail and placed under house arrest, DSK stayed in a Manhattan apartment under round-the-clock armed guard. The private security company charged $200,000 a month, which he was responsible for paying. Criminal charges though would be dropped. Prosecutors said the hotel maid lied about her past and about what she did immediately after the incident, calling her credibility into question.
Strauss-Kahn later settled a civil case brought by Diallo.
Throughout his US legal ordeal, Strauss-Kahn was supported by his wife Anne Sinclair, a former TV news presenter in France and wealthy heiress. The couple have since divorced.
Dreams of French presidency dashed
The affair wrecked his hopes of becoming French President. DSK’s disgrace opened the way for other Socialist hopefuls to stand and in 2012 Francois Hollande beat Sarkozy to become France’s first Socialist head of state since Francois Mitterrand. Dominique Strauss-Kahn went on French television to apologise to the country for what he called an ill-judged but consensual sexual liaison with the hotel chambermaid, saying he had made a “moral error” that he would regret all his life.
After the scandal, he rejoined the international speech circuit and put his financial skills to use in the private sector. He also became an adviser to the governments of Serbia and South Sudan as well as Russian and Moroccan banks. But his latest legal woes threaten the new life DSK has built for himself.
The case beginning on Monday centres on allegations that a prostitution ring organised by his business acquaintances provided women for clients of the Carlton Hotel in the northern French city of Lille. Police want to establish whether Strauss-Kahn knew that women at parties he attended in Lille, Paris and Washington were prostitutes. His lawyer has said Strauss-Kahn had no reason to think so.
He will appear alongside 13 other defendants in what has been dubbed France's major trial of 2015 by Britain’s ‘Independent’ newspaper.
It is expected to last for three weeks.