Dominique Strauss-Kahn could have been explaining a point to a dim world leader at a world summit.
“What I liked in swingers’ parties was the element of sport, or play,” he said. “I like sexual activity to be a party, to be fun. Having prostitutes there wouldn’t fit my sense of fun.”
There have been almost four years of allegations of sexual misconduct against the former IMF chief since he was arrested in a Manhattan hotel room in 2011. At his “pimping” trial in Lille in northern France, he was obliged to respond in detail and in public for the first time yesterday.
Yes, he admitted, he took part in a series of 12 sex parties in three countries from 2008 to 2011. No, he did not organise the parties. No, he did not realise the young women present were prostitutes.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn: A timeline
Dominique Strauss-Kahn: A timeline
1/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
25 April 1949: Born in Paris in the wealthyy suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, the son of a lawyer
2/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
1972: Attended Paris’ prestigious Institut d'études politiques de Paris – or Science Po – a breeding ground for the French elite
3/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
1986: First foray into politics following involvement in the Socialist Party. Elected a member of French parliament in the Haute-Savoie department
4/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
1997: French PM Lionel Jospin appoints Strauss-Kahn as his finance minister, one of the most senior political roles in the country
5/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
2006: Loses out in bid to become president of Socialist Party to Segolene Royal.
6/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
2007: Named as the European nominee to run the IMF, and announced as its managing director on 28 September
7/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
2008: IMF calls independent investigation over allegations Strauss-Kahn had an affair with subordinate Piroska Nagy. Nagy accused DSK of sustained harassment that left her feeling she had little choice but to sleep with him
8/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
2011: Resigned after being arrested by New York police on sexual assault allegations
9/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
2012: Signs settlement with hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo in December
10/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
2014: The events inspired a film starring Gerard Depardieu, released amid threats of a defamation suit from Dominique Strauss-Kahn
11/11 Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn goes on trial for aggravated pimping
Asked if he thought that all these beautiful young women came to the parties “just for him”, DSK said that he had “often been in the situation where women threw themselves” at him.
“But I thought they were coming for the excitement and the adventure … to take part in festive afternoons. I never thought they were coming just for me.
“I have no contempt for prostitutes but I take no pleasure – I even have a sense of horror – in sexual acts with prostitutes.”
The week-old trial – likely to last another 10 days – will turn on the credibility of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s declarations during an extraordinary and sometimes disturbing day of testimony. Earlier, a young Franco-Moroccan former prostitute called “Mounia” said that Mr Strauss-Kahn had anal sex with her “brutally” at one of the parties – despite the fact that she had made it clear that she “didn’t like sexual practises like that”.
She said that the incident took place at a party in a Paris hotel in July 2010 at which four prostitutes were present. Mounia said she had made it clear that she was “very unhappy” at being asked to have anal sex. “I cried a lot… DSK must have been aware that I was unhappy,” she said.
Their encounter lasted 20 to 30 minutes, she told the court. It was consensual, she said, but a “little brutal because he could see that I didn’t want to do it… It was not violent. It was a trial of strength… It was [DSK’s] smile that struck me from the beginning to the end. He seemed to be really enjoying everything that he was doing.”
Questioned on Mounia’s claim that she had “cried” when she was asked to have anal sex, Mr Strauss-Kahn, 65, said initially that he had “no recollection that she had refused in any way.”
He said: “If a woman says ‘no’, it’s ‘no’.” Under questioning by the president of the court, Bernard Lemaire, DSK conceded that “submission” and “domination” were “part of the game” at “swingers’ parties”.
Mounia may have shown some signs of “unwillingness”, he added – he could not remember the detail – “but she never objected”. Did he see her tears, he was asked. “No,” said the former IMF chief. “If I had seen that, I would have frozen.”
The incident is crucial to the prosecution. Investigators argue that DSK would only have treated a prostitute in this way. If he had believed – as he claims – that Mounia was an unpaid libertine or “swinger”, he would not have insisted on having anal sex with her against her original wishes.
A second former prostitute, Jade, took the stand in the late afternoon. She said she had been paid €500 to travel from Belgium to a Paris sex party at which DSK was the star guest. She said that she had performed oral sex with the then IMF leader, who was constantly surrounded by undressed women. The party had evidently nothing to do with “swinging” she said because there were no preliminaries, just sex.
Asked if she had spoken to DSK, Jade said: “No, because I had him in my mouth.” Asked if she had known who he was at the time, she said that she had had no idea “because I don’t have TV at home”.
“When I saw him on the TV later, I said ‘Oh gosh, it’s him, but he has his clothes on.”
Mr Strauss-Kahn and 12 other people are accused of helping to organise sex parties with prostitutes in Brussels, Paris and Washington. The last of these “orgies sans-frontières” took place in Washington a day before DSK’s arrest in New York in May 2011 accused of attempting to rape a hotel chambermaid. Charges were later dropped and a civil claim by the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, settled out of court.
The 13 are accused of “aggravated pimping in an organised gang” because any activity which promotes or organises prostitution can be considered “pimping” under French law. If convicted, DSK could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of €1.5m (£1.1m).
Two half-naked women belonging to the Femen movement tried to climb on the roof of DSK’s car as he arrived at the trial. They shouted “Macs [French slang for the clients of prostitutes] are guilty” before they were hauled away by police. Mr Strauss-Kahn was dressed in a grey suit, grey tie and a white shirt. On the stand or listening to others, his demeanour was that of a busy man having to deal with matters below his dignity. He might have been at a press conference or an EU summit.
He told the court that he earned €2.4m from his international consulting business last year. The austere underground courtroom in the Palais de Justice in Lille had sweeping wooden panels and dull concrete walls. The concrete defendants’ stand looked like a bollard on a one-way street. More than 30 fat, bright yellow files containing the trial’s “dossier” – mostly transcripts of witness and defendant interviews – were piled in front of the judges.
Asked whether he never suspected that any of the seven women who came to the “swingers’ parties – often alone and dressed in “provocative clothes” – might have been prostitutes, DSK said “never”.
“If I had known that I would not have gone along,” he said. Apart from his “horror” about paid sex, he said that he feared, as a prominent public figure, that prostitutes might buckle to pressure to reveal his activities to the media. A Lille businessman, Fabrice Paszkowski, admitted organising the parties for his “close friend” DSK but said that he had never told the then IMF chief that the women were paid. He insisted that some of the women were half-swinger, half-prostitutes. He ventured the phrase “libertines remunerées” – or “paid swingers”.
Mr Strauss-Kahn denies charges of pimping.
The trial continues.