IMF head remains in New York prison; charged over alleged hotel sex attack

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cquote1.svg This sordid episode—no matter how it ultimately plays out—will spell the end of Strauss-Kahn as an effective leader of the IMF even if he retains his position, which is highly unlikely. Cquote2.svg

Eswar Shanker Prasad, international economics professor, Cornell University

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, remained in jail last night after being charged with sexually attacking a chambermaid at a New York City hotel. Strauss-Kahn has agreed to undergo forensic screening before he appears in court, and has vowed to "vigorously" defend himself against the charges, which are likely to create a leadership void at the IMF, disrupt emergency talks over the European debt crisis, and spell the end of his political career.

Strauss-Khan was the favourite candidate for the French presidency, and was expected to announce he would stand against Nicolas Sarkozy this month. But the allegations are expected to destroy the hopes of his supporters, increase infighting among the French left, and leave his political career in tatters. His arrest comes at a critical moment for the IMF, and will likely plunge efforts to stabilise the financial states of struggling eurozone countries into chaos. He was meant to discuss the bailouts of Greece and Portugal with European Union financial officials at a meeting in Brussels this week.

Eswar Shanker Prasad, a professor of international economics at Cornell University, said: "This sordid episode – no matter how it ultimately plays out – will spell the end of Strauss-Kahn as an effective leader of the IMF even if he retains his position, which is highly unlikely." The IMF, however, insisted it remained "fully functioning and operational."

Strauss-Kahn was to appear in court in Manhattan yesterday charged with three crimes, including attempted rape, but the hearing has been delayed so he can undergo forensic tests. He was taken into custody by officials while on an Air France passenger plane which was about to take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport for Paris; when detectives approached him in the first class cabin in the aircraft he reportedly asked: "What is this about?" Strauss-Kahn reportedly fled the hotel "in a hurry" after the attack, leaving a number of personal effects behind. "If our officers had been ten minutes later he would have been in the air and on their [sic] way to France," a spokesperson for the New York Police Department said.

The chambermaid reported that she had been sexually assaulted by a man staying in a "luxury suite" at the Sofitel hotel near Times Square. "The maid described being forcibly attacked, locked in the room and sexually assaulted," the police spokesperson said. Strauss-Kahn came out of the shower naked while the chambermaid was working in the room, tried to pull the woman onto the bed and locked the door, The New York Times reported, quoting police sources. She allegedly fought him off, but he sexually assaulted her again after dragging her to the bathroom, before he locked her in the room; she was reportedly hospitalized afterwards with trauma.

In 2008, a year after becoming the leader of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn was reprimanded by the organization's board after being involved in an extramarital affair with another senior executive at the bank. More recently, he was pictured driving a luxury car in Paris, causing a media furore over whether his lifestyle fitted with the socialist attitude he claims to represent. But his wife, former television star Anne Sinclair, has dismissed the accusations. She said: "I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established."


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