The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been charged by New York City police over an alleged sex attack on a hotel maid. Mr. Strauss-Kahn is expected to be brought before a state court judge later today, where he will be formally charged with a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment.
“It’s that kind of behavior that should make the world wonder about trusting the IMF,” Rep. Ron Paul said on Sunday. The 2008 Republican presidential candidate said that Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who was pulled off an Air France flight moments before take-off from New York Saturday, said the whole course of events “is a bit ironic.”
Paul, who makes no secret about his disgust of IMF policies, said Strauss-Kahn demonstrates why the Fund has problems. “These are the kind of people that are running the IMF and we want to turn the world finances and the control of the money supply to them,” Paul said.
“That should awaken everybody to the fact that they ought to look into the IMF and find out why we shouldn’t be sacrificing more sovereignty to an organization like that and an individual like he was.”
The 62-year-old Socialist, a key player in the response to the 2007-9 global financial meltdown and in Europe’s debt crisis, is scheduled for arraignment Sunday after being accused by a 32-year-old maid at the luxury Sofitel hotel near Times Square of an attack on her in his $3,000-a-night suite on Saturday afternoon.
New York police spokesman Paul Browne said: “She told detectives he came out of the bathroom naked, ran down a hallway to the foyer where she was, pulled her into a bedroom and began to sexually assault her, according to her account.
He added: “She pulled away from him and he dragged her down a hallway into the bathroom where he engaged in a criminal sexual act, according to her account to detectives. He tried to lock her into the hotel room.” Browne said that Strauss-Kahn doesn’t have diplomatic immunity.
Mr Brown continued that Mr Strauss-Kahn then made his way to the airport but left his mobile phone and other items behind. He said: “It looked like he got out of there in a hurry.” By the time police established that the occupant of the room was Mr Strauss-Kahn, the IMF chief was on board an Air France plane at John F Kennedy airport, about to depart for Paris.
“Our detectives requested of the airport authorities that they stop the plane from leaving, went to the airport and took him into custody,” Mr Browne said. “If our officers had been 10 minutes later he would have been in the air and on their way to France.” The woman has been treated at hospital for minor injuries, added Mr Browne.
According to New York state law, a criminal sexual act carries a potential sentence of 15-20 years, the same as attempted rape. Unlawful imprisonment carries a potential sentence of three to five years.
The IMF chief, who is considered a frontrunner in challenging Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency, “denies all the charges against him,” his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, said on Sunday. He added that Mr. Strauss-Kahn “will plead not guilty”.
The arrest caused shock and disbelief in France, where a government spokesman called for caution and respect for the presumption of innocence. “The news we received from New York last night struck like a thunderbolt,” said Socialist leader Martine Aubry, appealing for party unity.
Francois Bayrou, a centrist opponent of Strauss-Kahn, said: “All this is completely astounding, immensely troubling and distressing. If the facts prove true … it’s something degrading for all women. It’s terrible for the image of France.”
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her rival’s presidential hopes had been crushed. Strauss-Kahn and Le Pen have led recent opinion polls ahead of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, even though the chief of the International Monetary Fund had yet to declare his candidacy.
In a statement on its website, the IMF declined to comment on the case, saying only that it “remains fully functioning and operational.” But a Greek official told Reuters the arrest could cause some delays to a European Union/IMF bailout for Athens, in which Strauss-Kahn was closely involved.
It’s not the first time that the thrice-married Strauss-Kahn has been in trouble for his relationships. In 2008, an outside lawyer hired by the IMF to investigate three complaints made about Strauss-Kahn’s behavior concluded that he did not force an ex-lover to accept a payout from the IMF and move to another organization.
The executive board at the IMF took no action against Strauss-Kahn but warned him about behavior toward female staff. Strauss-Kahn reportedly offered an apology to the board. His wife, French newswoman Anne Sinclair, wrote it off as a “one night stand.”
At the time, French commentators claimed the investigation’s timing was suspicious since it coincided with the IMF push toward a global currency.
“It’s very odd that it comes just at the moment when people are talking about the IMF and its head taking a lead role in creating a new global financial order which will not necessarily be to the advantage of wealthy, right-wing Americans,” a French economist and government adviser told Britain’s Observer newspaper.
But Paul said the IMF’s moves toward a world currency are “a threat to us.” He added: “I would like to go to a sound American currency, but others want to go to a world currency. They want to use the IMF.” [via The Telegraph (UK), BBC and Reuters]