IMF chief charged with 'sex attack' in New York hotel

The leader of the International Monetary Fund and a possible candidate for president of France was arrested in New York on Sunday in connection with the violent sexual assault of a hotel maid after being yanked from a plane moments before it was to depart, police said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, was awaiting arraignment on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. He had been taken off the Air France flight to Paris at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday afternoon by officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was turned over to New York police, said Paul J. Browne, New York Police Department spokesman.



His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, did not immediately respond to phone or email messages seeking comment from The Associated Press. "We have not yet been able to meet with our client and we may have more to say tomorrow," Brafman told The New York Times late Saturday.



France woke to the bombshell news on Sunday to surprise and a degree of caution. Online commentators questioned whether the incident could have been part of a smear campaign by the unpopular President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose political fortunes have been flagging, against his primary rival in the race for next year's presidential elections.



The incident could completely shake up the race for president next year, and throw the long-divided Socialists back into disarray about whom they could present as a challenger to Sarkozy.



"It's a cross that will be difficult for him to bear," said Dominique Paille, a political rival to Strauss-Kahn on the center left, on BFM television.



"It's totally hallucinating. If it is true, this would be a historic moment, but in the negative sense, for French political life," Paille said. Still, he urged, "I hope that everyone respects the presumption of innocence. I cannot manage to believe this affair."



The 32-year-old woman told authorities that she entered Strauss-Kahn's suite at the luxury Sofitel hotel not far from Manhattan's Times Square at about 1 pm Eastern time (1600 GMT) Saturday and he attacked her, Browne said. She said she had been told to clean the spacious $3000-a-night-suite suite, which she had been told was empty.



When detectives arrived, Strauss-Kahn had already left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone, Browne said. "It looked like he got out of there in a hurry," Browne said.



The NYPD discovered he was at the airport and contacted Port Authority officials, who plucked Strauss-Kahn from first class on the Air France flight that was just about to leave the gate.



The maid was taken by police to a hospital and was being treated for minor injuries. John Sheehan, a spokesman for the hotel, said its staff was cooperating in the investigation.



Strauss-Kahn, a married father of four, was briefly investigated in 2008 over whether he had an improper relationship with a subordinate female employee. The IMF board found his actions "regrettable" and said they "reflected a serious error of judgment."



William Murray, a spokesman for the IMF in Washington, said the IMF had no immediate comment. Strauss-Kahn's offices in Paris couldn't be reached when the news broke overnight in France. One of his allies, Jean-Marie Le Guen, expressed doubt about the incident.



"The facts as they've been reported today have nothing to do with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn that we know," Le Guen said on BFM television. "Dominique Strauss-Kahn has never exhibited violence toward people close to him, to anyone."



Strauss-Kahn was supposed to be meeting in Berlin on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about aid to debt-laden Greece, and then joining EU finance ministers in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. The IMF is responsible for one-third of Greece's existing loan package, and his expected presence at these meetings underlined the gravity of the Greek crisis.



Strauss-Kahn took over as head of the IMF in November 2007. The 187-nation lending agency is headquartered in Washington and provides help in the form of emergency loans for countries facing severe financial problems.



Strauss-Kahn won praise for his leadership at the IMF during the financial crisis of 2008 and the severe global recession that followed.



More recently, he has directed the IMF's participation in bailout efforts to keep a European debt crisis that began in Greece from destabilizing the global economy.



In October 2008, Strauss-Kahn issued an apology to the IMF staff after accusations that he had a sexual relationship with an IMF subordinate.



"While this incident constituted an error in judgment on my part, for which I take full responsibility, I firmly believe that I have not abused my position," Strauss-Kahn wrote in an email to IMF staff.



The board found that the relationship was consensual. The IMF employee left the fund and took a job with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.



Before taking the top post at the IMF, Strauss-Kahn had been a member of the French National Assembly and had also served as France's Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry from June 1997 to November 1999.



He had been viewed as a leading contender to run on the Socialist Party's ticket to challenge the re-election of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.



Strauss-Kahn, dubbed DSK in France, was seen as the strongest possible challenger to Sarkozy in next year's presidential elections. Strauss-Kahn has not declared his candidacy, staying vague in interviews while feeding speculation that he wants France's top job.



French media have reported about Strauss-Kahn's lifestyle, including luxury cars and suits, that some have dubbed a smear campaign.



He sought the Socialist Party's endorsement in the last elections, in 2007, but came in second in a primary to Segolene Royal. Royal, the first woman to get so close to France's presidency, lost to Sarkozy in the runoff.



After Sarkozy won, the new president championed Strauss-Kahn as a candidate to run the IMF. Sarkozy's backers touted the move as a sign of the conservative president's campaign of openness to leftists — but political strategists saw it as a way for Sarkozy to get a potential challenger far away from the French limelight.



Royal, who continues to harbor presidential ambitions of her own, remained prudent Sunday about the allegations.



"He has the right to the presumption of innocence," she said on Europe-1 radio. "My thoughts go to his family and his loved ones and to the man who is going through this. Let's not transform this event in a political soap opera for the moment. It would be indecent."



The global financial crisis thrust Strauss-Kahn into an unexpectedly prominent role and boosted his global standing in time to consider a 2012 French presidential bid.



A former economics professor, Strauss-Kahn joined the Socialist party in 1976 and was elected to parliament in 1986 from the Val-d'Oise district, north of Paris. He went on to become mayor of Sarcelles, a working-class immigrant suburb of Paris.



His first government post was industry minister under former President Francois Mitterrand. As finance minister, he reduced France's debt repayments through a raft of privatizations including the sale of shares in France Telecom SA and Air France.



He is credited with preparing France for the adoption of the euro by taming its deficit and persuading then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to sign up to an EU pact of fiscal prudence.

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week