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France's DSK has legal trouble on both sides of Atlantic

There are serious potential consequences on each side of the Atlantic for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE // At the very time he hoped to be cruising to victory in the French presidential elections, Dominique Strauss-Kahn is today turning his thoughts to the latest phase of his descent into public disgrace.

DSK - as he is commonly known - was told this week he faced criminal charges in France alleging "aggravated pimping as part of an organised gang".

In the United States, the sex case that began his steep downfall returns to a courtroom setting in New York today.

There are serious potential consequences on each side of the Atlantic.

In France, Mr Strauss-Kahn theoretically faces up to 20 years' imprisonment, though any penalty on conviction would be substantially lighter and, in all probability, non-custodial.

In the United States, he could be liable for millions of dollars in damages.

The former managing director of the International Monetary Fund is being pursued in a civil action in New York by Nafissatou Diallo, 32, the chambermaid who accused him of trying to rape her in his suite at the Sofitel hotel in May.

Criminal charges were dropped because of discrepancies in Miss Diallo's statements. But she has maintained that whatever misgivings prosecutors had about her testimony and her past, she was the victim of a sexual attack.

Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, while admitting that he was guilty of "an error", insists that what took place was consensual.

The case is due to open today with legal argument on whether Mr Strauss-Kahn's status as IMF chief at the time of the incident offers him immunity.

Late on Monday, in the northern French city of Lille, centre of the so-called "Carlton affair", Mr Strauss-Kahn was placed under formal investigation in connection with the supply of prostitutes for hotel orgies.

The affair is named after the Lille hotel where some parties are alleged to have taken place, though Paris and Washington, DC have also been identified as locations.

The use of prostitutes is not illegal in France but the potential charges allege the involvement of a gang, and the systematic provision of women for sexual services.

In France, placing a suspect under investigation is regarded as a step close to charges being brought. Mr Strauss-Kahn has been freed on €100,000 (Dh490,000) bail, the conditions including a ban on making contact with eight other people, including a police chief and lawyer, also suspected of criminal involvement, or with witnesses and the media.

Not for the first time in the past 10 months, it leaves him protesting that he is being victimised on moral grounds.

Mr Strauss-Kahn admits he attended parties where young women were present but denies knowing that they were prostitutes. He has stated publicly that he has an abhorrence of prostitution and pimping.

One of his lawyers, Richard Malka, said there would be an appeal against a judicial step that confused "simple libertine activity" with organised crime.

After Mr Strauss-Kahn's eight-hour appearance before investigating magistrates on Monday, Mr Malka said: "He is being pursued on the basis of an offence that does not exist.

"Huge police, judicial and financial resources have been invested in dissecting his privacy for the sole purpose of inventing a crime of lust."

Before his arrest, detention and subsequent release in connection with Miss Diallo's allegations, Mr Strauss-Kahn was seen as the socialist contender most likely to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy as French president.

Previously, he had told a French journalist three factors impaired his presidential ambitions: women, money and his Jewish faith. The mention of money referred to past financial controversies in which he was exonerated.

Since his return to France when the charges against him in the US were dropped, Mr Strauss-Kahn has also faced questioning about an allegation of attempted rape by an author, Tristane Banon. She said he tried to force himself upon her when she interviewed him in 2002 in connection with a book she was writing.

Paris prosecutors concluded that while there was evidence of the lesser offence of "sexual assault", the lapse in time ruled out any prosecution.

Earlier this month, there were scuffles at Cambridge University in England during protests after he accepted an invitation to address its debating society on European economic issues.

Despite Mr Sarkozy's recent resurgence in opinion polls, François Hollande - the man chosen in Mr Strauss-Kahn's absence as the Left's candidate - is still tipped to win the second, decisive vote on May 6.

Interviewed yesterday on French radio, Mr Hollande was coy, saying only: "This is a private affair, painful but one on which I do not have to make a political judgement ."



Updated: March 28, 2012 04:00 AM

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