The disgraced French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn has appeared before a Senate committee examining the role of banks in tax evasion cases – his first public appearance in a formal setting after being accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in New York two years ago.
Though Mr Strauss-Kahn, who is nicknamed “DSK”, appeared before the committee in Paris in his “expert” capacity as the former head of the International Monetary Fund and ex-finance minister, the shadow of his recent past was inescapable. He delivered a confident lecture calling for reinforced supervision and regulation in the world’s financial institutions, though his choice of language struck a different chord with some observers.
“Animal instincts exist,” he said, referring to a bankers’ urge towards personal enrichment which he said needed to be regulated more closely, by more specialist authorities. “We need gendarmes who are different from those today… It’s not with a Clio that you can catch a Ferrari,” he said. The parliamentary inquiry, set up by Communist Party senators, has so far heard testimony from 150 people.
Gérard Longuet, a Senator from the centre-right UMP party, said the appearance by the former Socialist party grandee – who, until his fall from grace, had been considered the party’s frontrunner in last year’s general election – was inappropriate. He accused Mr Strauss-Kahn of having “degraded the image of a politician.” The committee rapporteur, Eric Bocquet of the Communist party, defended the move saying Mr Strauss-Kahn was present as an “expert”. Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem distanced herself from the decision, saying: “I wouldn’t particularly have sought his expertise.”
Mr Strauss-Kahn agreed an undisclosed financial settlement with Nafissatou Diallo, who had worked at New York’s Sofitel hotel, last December after she dropped charges against him. He was later placed under investigation for “aggravated pimping” in connection with sex parties in France, but the public prosecutor has asked for the charges against him to be dropped.
His testimony came as authorities fined the French branch of Swiss bank UBS €10m for lax internal controls that enabled its sales representatives to help French clients evade taxes.
Today, France’s disgraced former budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, appeared before a separate parliamentary inquiry after admitting to holding an illegal Swiss bank account.