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‘Dodo the Pimp’ takes centre stage at Strauss-Kahn trial

AFP / François Lo Presti / 'Dodo le Saumure' leaves the courthouse in Lille on February 5 2015

A trial in which former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of involvement in an illegal prostitution ring swung between the comic and the tragic Thursday, as a convicted pimp and sex workers traded contradictory and disturbing evidence.

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The trial, which opened on Monday, is a multi-faceted case with 14 defendants and focuses on a prostitution ring allegedly run by the owners and a publicist for the luxury Carlton hotel in the northern French city of Lille.

It was during the police probe into the so-called "Carlton Affair" that investigators stumbled across the name of Strauss-Kahn, better known in France by his initials DSK, whose high-flying career and presidential prospects imploded when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011.

‘Dodo the Pimp’

DSK was not present at Thursday’s hearing, which focused instead on the activities of Dominique Alderweireld, better known as “Dodo le Saumure” (which roughly translates as Dodo the Pimp).

Alderweireld, a French citizen whose businesses are based in Belgium, is accused of bussing prostitutes over the border to work in Lille's Carlton Hotel.

Alderweireld, who turned 66 on Thursday, appears to be proud of his nickname, and spoke frankly about two jail terms he served for illegally procuring prostitutes, (prostitution is not illegal in France, but procuring prostitutes and making a profiting from their activities is).

He also described his businesses in Belgium, where he owns a number of “establishments” used by prostitutes. He said he was no longer the legal director of these brothels and hostess bars because he is forbidden to have a bank account, but that he nevertheless likes to “keep his hand in”.

Publicity stunts

Alderweireld, who explained that he did not take a cut of the sex-workers earnings but charged them to use his facilities instead, seemed to be using the trial as a publicity stunt.

He even joked that he was considering opening a new establishment called “IMF” in honour of DSK. In 2014 he opened a bar called the “Dodo Sex Club” (DSK), which was shut down after Strauss-Kahn threatened to sue.

Another name he claimed to be considering was “Carlton”, the name of the hotel whose 70-year-old head of communications, René Kojfer, stands accused of conniving with Alderweireld to sell sexual services to businessmen.

Alderweireld said Kojfer was a childhood friend, and referred to him in the courtroom jokingly as “Mr Three Minutes” (“the time it takes for him to have a shower”) and also as “Judas, the dark shame of Lille’s Hebrew community”.

Often giving evidence next to his 41-year-old long-term girlfriend and co-accused Beatrice Legrain, who told the court she had “been a prostitute all her life and enjoyed the work", Alderweireld was openly dismissive of the women who worked in his “establishments”, describing them as having an “average IQ of 25” and telling the court he referred to black prostitutes as “negresses”.

Both he and Legrain deny shipping prostitutes to France for their own profit, including organising orgies in which DSK was reported to have participated.

“I never put any of the girls in my clubs under any kind of pressure to go and work at the Carlton,” he told the court. “They were contacted without my knowledge".

'Working in Lille was like a holiday compared to Dodo'

One prostitute, who referred to herself by her professional name “Jade”, told the court that one of Alderweireld’s Belgian managers recruited her to work in Lille. She insisted, however, that she had “never set foot” in the Carlton Hotel, but had worked out of a neighbouring apartment.

She told the court that a brothel manager referred to as "Sofia" had told her: “I’ve had a call from Dodo - he wants three girls to go to Lille.”

“Jade”, who often broke down in tears as she described her life as a single mother and working prostitute, said working for “Dodo” was a living hell, that he did nothing when they were abused and that he had a policy of “having a free go with all the new girls”.

Her work in Lille, she said, was “nice, because it got me away from Dodo’s exploitative environment".

"Compared to working in Dodo’s brothels, Lille was more like a holiday", she added.

Strauss-Kahn, who is due to give evidence next Tuesday, admits he is a “libertine” who enjoys taking part in orgies, but denies knowing that any of the women he had sex with were prostitutes.

The 65-year-old economist nonetheless finds himself facing 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros for "aggravated pimping in an organised group".

Investigating judges argue that he played a role in initiating the sex parties and organising the presence of the prostitutes.

Strauss-Kahn, who had been preparing to run for the French presidency and was enjoying a runaway lead in opinion polls ahead of the 2012 election, resigned from the IMF after he was accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in 2011.

His fall from grace destroyed his political ambitions as a leading member of the French Socialist Party, leaving the way free for the current president, François Hollande.

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