Innocent until proven guilty, and with a $1m bail cheque burning a hole in his prison jumpsuit, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's release from New York's notorious Rikers Island jail descended into farce yesterday, after he was unable to find a suitable venue for his court-ordered house-arrest.
The former IMF chief, who is accused of the attempted rape of a chambermaid in the suite of his hotel last weekend, was left twiddling his thumbs after the management of an upscale Manhattan apartment complex where his wife Anne Sinclair had rented a temporary residence declared him to be persona non grata.
Ms Sinclair, who in public has remained vehemently supportive of her 62-year-old spouse, was forced to embark on a search for alternative accommodation, after the Bristol Plaza on East 65th Street pulled out of a deal to provide a residence for the couple. A long-standing resident of the building, where two-bedroom flats rent for around $14,000-a-month (£8,600), is believed to have complained at the prospect of having him for a neighbour.
The development left Mr Strauss-Kahn in legal limbo until a judge ruled shortly before 5pm that his conditions for bail had been met. It appeared last night that Mr Strauss-Kahn would move first to temporary housing from which he would not be allowed to stray for any reason. As well as armed guards and video cameras, the doors from the residence would be alarmed. Once he has moved, presumably with his wife, to more long-term accommodation pending his trial, Mr Strauss-Kahn will be allowed out but only for medical or legal appointments. There was no information last night on what kind of temporary abode had been found.
Under an agreement negotiated on Thursday, the man who was until this week tipped as a future French president was to be freed on $1m bail, provided he surrendered his passport, wore an electronic ankle bracelet, and agreed to spend the months leading up to his trial under supervised house arrest. He is unable to leave New York or move into a hotel. That presents a strategic problem, since residents of city's upscale apartment complexes are notoriously choosy about the people permitted to live next door.
Ms Sinclair, a French journalist, is certainly not short of money. She is sole heir to her grandfather, a wealthy art dealer called Paul Rosenberg. Mr Strauss-Kahn has backed his bail with the deeds to his wife's $4m house in Washington DC. He has also agreed to pay $200,000-a-month for armed guards to ensure that he doesn't attempt to escape.
"They are certainly permitted to use reasonable force necessary to restrain or to prevent his escape," his lawyer told the court. "That, however, will not be a problem with this client, who is intent on coming to court to clear his name."
As journalists and TV crews gathered at Rikers Island awaiting the inmate's release, the IMF's finances were coming under scrutiny. Before his resignation, Mr Strauss-Kahn was earning roughly $530,000 a year, and he is likely to be paid $300,000 in compensation for quitting the job. His pension will provide another $318,000 per year.
In France, where many believe he was the victim of a conspiracy, politics may turn into a double courtroom drama this autumn. With the "DSK" trial due to begin in October, it emerged yesterday that the suspended trial of former president Jacques Chirac on corruption charges will probably resume in Paris in September. Mr Chirac's trial on allegations that he embezzled public money to fund his political party while mayor of Paris was interrupted in March. France's highest appeal court rejected the challenges yesterday.
* It was last night reported that Strauss-Kahn was moved into a 21-story granite skyscraper called the Empire Building. The apartment building on Broadway in Manhattan's Financial District, several blocks from the World Trade Centre site, rents two-bedroom apartments starting at $4,250 a month, with nine-foot ceilings, bay windows and walk-in closets.
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