DSK trial to offer ‘great show’, says brothel owner
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Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on Monday went on trial in the northern French city of Lille accused of pimping, four years after a sex scandal in the US cost him his job and a shot at the French presidency.
The 65-year-old economist, whose high-flying career imploded when he was accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in 2011, this week returned to court over his role at the centre of a prostitution ring.
Strauss-Kahn, who had been preparing to run for French president and was enjoying a runaway lead in opinion polls ahead of the 2012 contest, resigned from the IMF. The fall from grace destroyed his political ambitions, leaving the way free for the current president, François Hollande.
Once one of the most powerful men in the world, Strauss-Kahn sat in the dock alongside a colourful cast of characters including luxury hotel managers, a prostitute, police, and a brothel owner named Dominique Alderweireld but who is better known by his nickname: "Dodo the Pimp."
“This is going to be fun, it’s going to be a great show,” Alderweireld, who is accused of procuring prostitutes for orgies attended by Strauss-Kahn, told reporters as he arrived in court.
Arms folded and dressed in a black suit, Strauss-Kahn appeared tense, often typing on his cellphone as procedural issues dominated the first day of what is expected to become a three-week-long trial.
Lawyers for several of the 14 accused, including Strauss-Kahn, called for the case to be declared invalid over claims some of their clients had their calls intercepted on orders from former prime minister François Fillon's office in June 2010 – eight months before the official investigation began.
The allegation, based on a book written by a former policeman, a witness statement in a separate case and a report by an investigative journalist, meant the accused "could not receive a fair trial," said one of their lawyers, Sorin Margulis.
The lawyers demanded more information on the secret probe and also slammed the three investigating judges for bias, over reports they had stuck a caricature of the Strauss-Kahn up in their office.
Presiding judge Bernard Lemaire, who earlier dismissed a request for ex-prostitutes to testify behind closed doors, said the question about the secret probe would be included in the trial.
Aiding and abetting prostitution
Earlier, Lemaire had read out the charges against Strauss-Kahn, accused of being at the centre of a vice ring which hired prostitutes for sex parties in Brussels, Paris and Washington DC.
"You are accused of aiding and abetting the prostitution of seven persons between March 29, 2008 and October 4, 2011, and of hiring and encouraging the prostitution of these same persons," Lemaire said.
Lurid details of group sex and high-end prostitution are likely to emerge in the trial, in which Strauss-Kahn faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros if he is convicted.
The trial will be the latest in a series of legal woes offering a peek behind the bedroom door of a man once tipped as a potential challenger to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
France was stunned when they saw Strauss-Kahn paraded handcuffed in front of the world's cameras after a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in May 2011 - a case that was eventually settled in a civil suit.
Many believe he was set up by opponents exploiting his well-known voracious sexual appetite.
The 'Carlton Affair'
Investigators probing the "Carlton Affair" - named after one of the upscale hotels in Lille where local businessmen and police officials organised sex parties in northern France and Belgium - found some of the prostitutes involved had been hired to participate in soirees attended by Strauss-Kahn.
Prostitution is legal in France but procuring - the legal term for pimping, which includes encouraging, benefiting from or organising prostitution - is punishable by a hefty jail term.
The crux of the case against Strauss-Kahn is whether he knew the women were prostitutes and whether he played a role in organising their presence.
Strauss-Kahn admits to being a "libertine" who enjoys orgies but has steadfastly denied knowing the women were paid.
"In these circumstances one isn't always clothed, and I challenge you to tell the difference between a prostitute naked and any other woman naked," DSK's star lawyer Henri Leclerc, 84, said in 2011.
But investigators claim Strauss-Kahn was "king of the party," and they are seeking to prove his mere presence gave rise to prostitution, as his entourage organised the evenings according to his schedule.
The first to take the stand on Tuesday will be the Carlton's former public relations manager Rene Kojfer who is accused of organising prostitutes for "well-connected men", often setting them up in his hotel.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)