A senior French police officer arrested in a high-profile prostitution case twice visited Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Washington DC with a group of young women, investigators have been told.
One of the visits ended on 13 May, the day before Mr Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested in New York on charges of attempted rape.
The alleged activities of Commissioner Jean-Christophe Lagarde are at the centre of a widening investigation into a suspected call-girl ring in Lille, northern France. Five people, including a hotel manager, a businessman and a massage parlour owner have been formally accused of "pimping". Mr Strauss-Kahn's name has come up in statements made to investigators, according to leaked transcripts given to the French press.
The Socialist politician, who was cleared of the US sexual assault charges in September, asked to meet investigators last weekend to answer what he calls "hasty and malevolent" accusations. Commissioner Lagarde was detained on Thursday and remained under interrogation yesterday by the Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale (IGPN), which investigates alleged crimes by police.
The newspaper Le Monde reported yesterday that the IGPN had evidence that Mr Lagarde made at least two trips to Washington to visit Mr Strauss-Kahn, pictured, in February and May. On each visit he was accompanied by the head of a Lille-based construction firm and a group of women from massage parlours just over the border in Belgium.
Some women working in the parlours are alleged to be 17 or younger. The age of the women who went to Washington has not been reported. Prostitution is legal in France from the age of 18, but it is illegal to pimp, or to live on the earnings of prostitutes.
David Roquet, the head of a construction firm linked to the French company BFP Eiffage, is also under formal investigation. He told investigators he was an acquaintance of Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62. According to leaked transcripts, he said he organised the Washington visits "at DSK's request". Both Mr Roquet and Mr Lagarde deny involvement in prostitution.