Strauss-Kahn walks free after sex case dropped

A New York judge on Tuesday dismissed all sex crime charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, ending a sordid saga that derailed the stellar career of one of the world's most powerful men.

Strauss-Kahn walks free after sex case dropped
Guillaume Paumier (File)

State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus immediately approved the prosecutors’ request to abandon a case they deemed untenable as a result of constant lying by the hotel maid accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.  

A last-ditch attempt by a lawyer for the maid to reverse the dismissal by handing the case to a special prosecutor was turned down in a New York appeals court.  

From that moment, what the former International Monetary Fund chief called his “nightmare” was over.  

However, in a bizarre twist, a rare earthquake along the US eastern seaboard caused early closing of court offices, meaning Strauss-Kahn still had to wait until Wednesday to collect his passport, which had been confiscated at the time of his arrest on May 14.  

The 62-year-old looked relieved as he left the courthouse, accompanied by his millionaire French wife Anne Sinclair, who has stood by his side ever since the sensational sex scandal erupted.  

“This is the end of a terrible and unjust ordeal,” Strauss-Kahn told reporters after returning to the luxury Manhattan rental residence where he has spent much of the last three and a half months under house arrest.  

“I’m eager to return to my country,” he said, pledging to speak at “greater length” once back in France.  

Strauss-Kahn said he was “relieved” for his wife, children and “everyone who has supported me at this time by sending me letters and emails.”  

But even if he returns to public life in France, Strauss-Kahn’s reputation has been badly sullied by an affair that forced him to resign as head of the IMF and put his French presidential dreams on hold.  

Demonstrators, many of them women, hurled insults outside of the courtroom. One, referring to Strauss-Kahn by the initials by which he is known in France, shouted: “DSK, you’re a sick bastard and your wife is even sicker.”  

The District Attorney’s Office defended its decision to drop the case, saying that despite strong initial evidence of a possible sexual assault, there was no definitive proof, while the maid herself could no longer be believed.  

Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon said she did not take the decision “lightly,” but added that the accuser, immigrant chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo, had “severely undermined her reliability as a witness in this case.”  

District Attorney Cyrus Vance issued a statement justifying his decision as “absolutely the right one, legally and ethically.”  

“If we are not persuaded — beyond a reasonable doubt — that a crime has been committed, based on the evidence we have, we cannot ask a jury to convict,” he said.  

The case garnered world attention on May 14 when Strauss-Kahn was escorted away by New York police from his first class seat on an Air France plane moments before its departure for Paris.  

Prosecutors initially said they had strong evidence that Strauss-Kahn forced Diallo into oral sex in his luxury Sofitel hotel room and tried to rape her.  

Even now, prosecutors stress the DNA evidence shows Strauss-Kahn did engage in a sex act with the maid in his suite, ejaculating over her uniform. However, they say they cannot prove to a jury that the sex was forced.  

The case first began to unravel when prosecutors discovered that Diallo had been caught lying on her asylum application form, including about a gang rape she said she had suffered in her native Guinea.  

She was also said to have discussed Strauss-Kahn’s wealth in a telephone conversation with a Guinean friend currently held in a US prison, and to have changed sworn testimony to the grand jury considering the case.  

In their 25-page motion filed Monday asking the judge to dismiss all charges, prosecutors said Diallo was “persistently, and at times inexplicably, untruthful in describing matters of both great and small significance.”  

“The nature and number of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter” at the hotel, they added.  

Strauss-Kahn could, in theory, return to frontline French politics, but few in France expect a prominent role for him any time soon.  

“I don’t think he can hope for a center stage role in French politics now,” said Gerard Grunberg of the prestigious Sciences-Po school in Paris, where Strauss-Kahn once taught.  

“His public image is much deteriorated, and the Socialist Party and its leaders must be mad at him for having missed this moment of opportunity. Neither the public nor the party want to see him back on the frontline.”  

Strauss-Kahn also faces a civil suit filed in a Bronx court seeking unspecified damages for an alleged “sadistic” attack on May 14.

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World unprepared for next financial crisis: ex-IMF chief Strauss-Kahn

The world is less well equipped to manage a major financial crisis today than it was a decade ago, according to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

World unprepared for next financial crisis: ex-IMF chief Strauss-Kahn
Former French Economy Minister and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Dominique Strauss-Kahn , poses during a photo session in Paris on Thursday. Photo: JOEL SAGET / AFP
In an interview with AFP, the now-disgraced Strauss-Kahn — who ran the fund at the height of the 2008 financial meltdown — also said rising populism across the world is a direct result of the crisis. 
Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the IMF in 2011 after being accused of attempted rape in New York, although the charges were later dropped. He settled a subsequent civil suit, reportedly with more than $1.5 million.
Q: When did you become aware that a big crisis was brewing?
A: When I joined the IMF on Nov 1, 2007, it became clear quite quickly that things were not going well. That is why in January 2008, in Davos, I made a statement that made a bit of noise, asking for a global stimulus package worth two percent of each country's GDP. In April 2008, during the IMF's spring meetings, we released the figure of $1,000 billion that banks needed for their recapitalisation.
Q: Did the Bush administration grasp the danger of Lehman Brothers going bankrupt?
A: No, and that is why Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson decided not to save Lehman, because he wanted to make an example of it in the name of moral hazard. Like everybody else, he considerably underestimated the consequences. Allowing Lehman to go under was a serious mistake. Especially because only a week later they were forced to save the insurer AIG, which was much bigger.
Q: Ten years on, are we better equipped to deal with a crisis of such a magnitude?
A: No. We have made some progress, particularly in the area of banks' capital adequacy ratios. But that is not nearly enough. Imagine Deutsche Bank suddenly finding itself in difficulty. The eight percent of capital it has at its disposal are not going to be enough to solve the problem. The truth is that we are less well prepared now. Regulations are insufficient.
Q: How so?
A: After 2012-2013 we stopped talking about the need to regulate the economy, for example concerning the size of banks, or concerning rating agencies. We backtracked, which is why I am pessimistic about our preparedness. We have a non-thinking attitude towards globalisation and that does not yield positive results.
Q: Do we still have international coordination?
A: Coordination is mostly gone. Nobody plays that role anymore. Not the IMF and not the EU, and the United States president's policies are not helping. As a result, the mechanism that was created at the G20, which was very helpful because it involved emerging countries, has fallen apart. Ten years ago, governments accepted leaving that role to the IMF. I'm not sure it is able to play it today, but the future will tell.
Q: Do you believe that Donald Trump's election is a consequence of the crisis?
A: I believe so. I'm not saying that there was a single reason for Trump's election, but today's political situation is not unconnected to the crisis we lived through, both in the US with Trump and in Europe.
Q: Connected how?
A: One of the consequences of the crisis has been completely underestimated, in my opinion: the populism that is appearing everywhere is the direct outcome of the crisis and of the way that it was handled after 2011/2012, by favouring solutions that were going to increase inequalities.
Quantitative easing (by which central banks inject liquidity into the banking system) was useful and welcome. But it is a policy that is basically designed to bail out the financial system, and therefore serves the richest people on the planet.
When there's a fire, firemen intervene and there is water everywhere. But then you need to mop up, which we didn't do. And because this water flowed into the pockets of some, and not of everyone, there was a surge in inequality.
By AFP's Antonio Rodriguez