IMF leader charged with assaulting N.Y. hotel maid

Posted on May 16, 2011


By Geraldine Baum and Kim Willsher

Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK – Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, was due in a Manhattan courtroom Sunday to be arraigned on sexual-assault charges alongside weekend petty criminals – and before an audience of well-dressed French journalists, tourists, and New York tabloid reporters.

Strauss-Kahn, leader of the IMF and one of the world’s most influential financial leaders, was expected to plead not guilty to charges of attacking a maid in the luxury suite of a Times Square-area hotel.

Hours after his arrest, the International Monetary Fund on Sunday named John Lipsky as acting managing director. Lipsky, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, is a former U.S. Treasury executive and onetime banker at JP Morgan. IMF spokesman William Murray said Lipsky, who has been overseeing the logistics of the bailout of the Greek economy, would meet with members of the IMF board in Washington soon.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, was removed from a plane departing New York for Paris on Saturday night. His arrest came about 4:40 p.m. at Kennedy Airport, when two detectives of the Port Authority suddenly boarded Air France Flight 23 as the plane idled at the departure gate, said John P. L. Kelly, a spokesman for the agency.

“It was 10 minutes before its scheduled departure,” Kelly said. “They were just about to close the doors.”

The assault allegations have caused a major disruption in Strauss-Kahn’s duties of preserving the stability of European monetary policy, and his possible bid for the presidency of France.

Strauss-Kahn was taken to the Harlem headquarters of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, which investigates rape and other sex crimes. He was expected to be charged with committing a criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment, said Paul Browne, deputy New York police commissioner.

The Manhattan district attorney will determine the actual charges, which will be made public at the arraignment. The IMF leader’s attorney said his client would plead not guilty.

The incident began Saturday afternoon, police said.

“A 32-year-old chambermaid at a Sofitel on 44th Street said that at about 1 p.m., she entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s room to clean when he came out of the bathroom naked, pushed her onto the bed, and assaulted her,” Browne said. The maid told police that before she could escape, Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex, Browne said.

She immediately told her supervisor, but before investigators could get to Strauss-Kahn’s room, he had left the hotel, leaving his cellphone and other personal items, Browne said.

The maid was treated for minor injuries at a Manhattan hospital. A police source said she had picked Strauss-Kahn out of a lineup.

For the last four years, Strauss-Kahn has been the managing director of the IMF, a lending institution with 186 member countries that helps oversee the global economy.

He has also long been a key player in the French Socialist Party and was considered a likely candidate to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next May’s election.

France woke up in a state of collective shock. Not in his Socialist Party’s worst nightmares, nor Sarkozy’s wildest dreams, was Strauss-Kahn expected to be at the epicenter of what was described as a “political earthquake.”

The spectacular fall of Strauss-Kahn from presidential candidate to Harlem jail cell was a combination of sordid tale and Shakespearean tragedy.

Strauss-Kahn is widely recognized as a brilliant economist. As head of the IMF, he has been instrumental in approving recent loans to stop the Greek economy from imploding and negotiating the bailouts of Ireland and Portugal.

Only three days ago, the IMF warned that the Eurozone debt crisis could engulf the entire continent if European countries did not act to put their financial houses in order.

After last year’s rescue of Greece, IMF and European officials have for the most part accepted the fact that Greece will require an additional 60 billion euros in aid to see it through 2012 and 2013.

Strauss-Kahn was due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday and European finance ministers Monday to discuss urgent measures, including a rescue package for Portugal.

But he has long been presented as a Jekyll and Hyde character: on one hand, a charismatic socialist, a former economics professor and business lawyer, and a graduate of France’s most prestigious colleges; on the other, a free-spending lover of luxury and an alleged sexual predator who has “a problem with women.”

Within a year of assuming the job, he was investigated by the IMF board about whether he had had an improper relationship with a former female employee.

The board concluded his actions were “regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment” but took no action because the relationship was consensual and did not involve any abuse of authority.

Strauss-Kahn has run unsuccessfully to be his party’s nominee for president and has served as a member of the French National Assembly and as a cabinet minister in left-leaning governments.

He is married to Anne Sinclair, his third wife, who is a leading TV journalist.

Posted in: imf, International