French prosecutors probe DSK rape claim

French prosecutors began Friday a preliminary inquiry into an allegation by a young writer that former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003, judicial sources said.

Tristane Banon in 2001

Police detectives have been assigned to investigate a complaint lodged by 32-year-old Tristane Banon that Socialist politician Strauss-Kahn assaulted her in a Paris flat as she attempted to interview him for a book she was writing.

Strauss-Kahn is on trial in the United States on separate charges that on May 14 he sexually assaulted and attempted to rape a New York hotel maid, but prosecutors there have admitted to doubts over the alleged victim’s testimony.

The 62-year-old economist pleaded not guilty in New York and dismissed the alleged Paris attack as “imaginary”. His lawyers are planning to sue Banon for defamation over the allegation, which she first made on television in 2007.

But Banon’s lawyer, David Koubbi, insists her complaint is not simply a “her word versus his” dispute, but is backed by supporting evidence.

“We have material elements. Text messages were sent and there is testimony. Several people are at the disposal of the judiciary to bear witness,” he said this week, after filing the complaint with state prosecutors.

In France, attempted rape is punishable by a sentence of 15 years, while in New York Strauss-Kahn faces a total of seven related charges including sexual assault, some of them carrying penalties of up to 25 years in jail.

For the French case to come to trial, prosecutors must conclude they have enough evidence to ask an investigating magistrate to indict the suspect, eight years after the alleged attack.

Until May’s allegations in New York, Strauss-Kahn was one of the most powerful men in world financial governance and considered the frontrunner for the French opposition Socialists’ presidential primary.

Although yet to formally join the race, polls showed him on course to defeat France’s centre-right incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, in next April’s vote and to assume one of the world’s most powerful executive posts.

Reported inconsistencies in the New York maid’s evidence have made it likely that the US case will eventually collapse, observers say, but Strauss-Kahn is no longer thought likely to seek his party’s nomination.

And if he does return to France, he will now face a lengthy second inquiry into the alleged 2003 incident.

A French court meanwhile on Friday delayed its ruling on whether the new head of the IMF, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, will face a criminal probe over her handling of a tycoon’s lawsuit.

The Court of Justice of the Republic, which is charged with deciding whether ministers can be investigated over alleged offences committed in office, said it had pushed back its much-anticipated decision until August 4.

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Ghosn trial may be delayed until next year: Japanese media

Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's trial, which was expected to begin in September, will be delayed, local media said Saturday, hinting that it may not start this year.

Ghosn trial may be delayed until next year: Japanese media
Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn leaving a detention centre on Thursday. Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP
The 65-year-old tycoon, currently on bail, is preparing for his trial on four charges of financial misconduct ranging from concealing part of his salary from shareholders to syphoning off Nissan funds for his personal use.
The Tokyo District Court had proposed to start his trial in September during its pre-trial meetings with his defence lawyers and prosecutors, news reports said, quoting unnamed sources.
But the court told the lawyers and prosecutors on Friday that it had retracted the plan without proposing a new time frame, Kyodo News said, adding that the move could mean the trial will not start this year.
The court also decided not to separate the trial for Ghosn, his close aide Greg Kelly and Nissan — all indicted on the charge of violating the financial instruments law by underreporting Ghosn's compensation, according to Kyodo.
His lawyers have so far demanded he be tried separately from Nissan and have voiced fears he will not receive a fair trial.
The Sankei Shimbun also said prosecutors gave up filing an appeal to the Supreme Court against his bail, a move to erasing a chance of his return to jail unless he is arrested again on fresh charges. Immediate confirmation of the news reports was not available.
On Thursday, Ghosn exited his Tokyo detention centre after accepting bail of $4.5 million under strict conditions, including restrictions on seeing his wife.
His case has captivated Japan and the business community with its multiple twists and turns, as well as shone a spotlight on the Japanese justice system which critics say is overly harsh.
Ghosn denies all the charges, with a spokesperson for the executive saying on Monday he would “vigorously defend himself against these baseless accusations and fully expects to be vindicated”.
In a statement hours after his release, Ghosn said: “No person should ever be indefinitely held in solitary confinement for the purpose of being forced into making a confession.”
The dramatic case has thrown international attention onto the Japanese justice system, derided by critics as “hostage justice” as it allows prolonged detention and relies heavily on suspects' confessions.