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France

Strauss-Kahn faces more questions over prostitution ring

Text by Ben MCPARTLAND

Latest update : 2012-03-28

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was once again in front of police on Wednesday when he faced a second day of questioning over a suspected prostitution ring. The disgraced former IMF chief has vowed to clear his name but he could face criminal charges.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced former chief of the International Monetary Fund, faced further questions from police on Wednesday over his alleged links to a suspected prostitution ring.

The man known simply as “DSK” in France was grilled by police in the northern French city of Lille for a second day after spending the previous night in prison.

Police want to establish wether he played a role in the organisation of illegal sex parties with prostitutes and whether he benefitted from the misuse of corporate funds.

On Tuesday morning, Strauss-Kahn arrived by car at a Lille police station, where a mob of waiting journalists and photographers descended on the one-time French presidential hopeful whose political ambitions were curtailed by a series of sexual assault allegations. The 62-year-old former French politician declined to comment.

Prosecutors suspect him of being involved in the organisation of “libertine” sex parties at restaurants and hotels in both France and the United States. The latest scandal has been dubbed “the Carlton Affair” by the French media because of the luxury Lille hotel where many of the gatherings took place.

Prosecutors have until Thursday morning to question him as a suspect before deciding whether to bring charges against him.

Did he know they were prostitutes?

Strauss-Kahn was linked with the case after prostitutes admitted having sex with him at the gatherings when questioned by police last year.

DSK claims he had no idea the women were prostitutes. In an interview with a French radio station, his lawyer, Henri Leclerc maintained that his client, “could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman.”

Since his name emerged in connection with the Carlton Affair, DSK has waited for his chance to respond to what his lawyers slammed as “evil insinuations” and “media lynching”.

He had initially gone to Lille voluntarily to be questioned as a witness but when he arrived French prosecutors placed him on ‘garde à vue’ meaning he was questioned as a ‘suspect’ in the case.

In France it is not a crime to use the services of a prostitute, but supplying them to others, or pimping as it is more commonly known, is illegal.

DSK would be in hot water with the law if police find he was “complicit” with the pimping or if he knew corporate funds were being misused to pay for the prostitutes.

The Carlton Web

So far eight people, some of whom had ties with DSK, have been charged in connection with the case on charges including organizing a prostitution ring and misusing corporate funds.

DSK is by far the highest profile figure linked to the prostitution ring but others include a police commissioner, a lawyer, hotel bosses and local businessmen David Roquet and Fabrice Paszkowski.

Roquet, who heads a construction company, allegedly used his corporate expense account to cover part of the bill for the orgies in Paris. Paszkowski, who owns a specialist store selling medical equipment, is also alleged to have footed the bill for sex soirées.

French daily newspaper Libération, which has seen transcripts of police interviews, reported on Tuesday that the two suspects have repeatedly been probed over DSK’s involvement with the suspected prostitution ring.

“It is not the done thing at these kinds of sex parties to tell everyone that some of the women were being paid,” Libération quoted Paszkowski as telling the police.

Prosecutors were expected to probe DSK on whether he was expected to use his influence in the Socialist Party to provide return favours to those who organised the parties.

Lawyers for Roquet and Paszkowski have denied any deals were made.

Potential consequences for DSK

The Carlton Affair is the third sex scandal to hit DSK in less than a year. He resigned from the IMF in May last year after a chamber maid Nafissatou Diallo, 32, accused him of trying to rape her at a New York hotel.

DSK admitted having an “inappropriate” sexual encounter in his Sofitel suite with Diallo, but he insisted the encounter was consensual. The criminal case was eventually dropped but Diallo is pursuing a civil action against him.

The disgraced former IMF chief returned to France only to face charges of attempted rape dating back to 2003 by writer Tristane Banon. The case was also eventually dropped because prosecutors said the incident happened too long ago.

Before the Sofitel hotel scandal, DSK was viewed as the favourite to become the Socialist Party candidate for the 2012 presidential elections and a potential successor to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But with the Carlton Affair, DSK’s troubles are far from over.

The offence of pimping women is punishable by a sentence of up to seven years in prison as well as a €150,000 fine. If DSK is found to have played a part in the misuse of corporate funds he would, if convicted, face up to five years behind bars and a €375,000 penalty.

He may also simply be exonerated by prosecutors and be left with rebuilding his tattered reputation among the French public.

But Philippe Marlière, a specialist in French politics at University College London, thinks it will be an impossible task.

“We can well and truly say it’s over for good for him. This latest affair is the final straw. It’s so sordid and vulgar you would not believe it. The French no longer see him as a possible statesman. Politics has moved on,” Marliere told FRANCE 24.

Date created : 2012-02-21

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