Andreas Whittam Smith: DSK, Murdoch and the trouble with inquiries

The magistrates interrogating the former IMF chief are engaged in a hopeless task

Share

One of the hardest accusations to prove is participation in a deal whose terms have never been openly discussed or documented – when it is all winks and nods. So when David Cameron insisted in Parliament on Monday that the Conservative Party had never had a "grand deal" with Rupert Murdoch over the the BSkyB bid, he couldn't be gainsaid. Under pressure, the Prime Minister would have been able to say – show me the facts that support your suspicions. None would have been forthcoming.

I had this in the back of my mind this week when I read extracts from transcripts of an interrogation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn by French magistrates. For they were engaged in the same sort of hopeless task, proving an implicit conspiracy, only in this case they were trying to implicate the former head of the IMF in arrangements involving prostitutes. These enquiries are quite separate from the criminal charges laid against Mr Strauss-Kahn in New York, of sexually assaulting a hotel maid, that were later dropped. The French case involves a suspected prostitution ring centred on the Hotel Carlton in Lille.

The account is as gripping to read as a "police procedural" – the type of crime fiction that gives a minute description of the activities of the police as they go about their business. More than that, though, DSK gave a masterclass in rebutting the allegations.

The plotline is that four friends, comprising two businessmen, a police commissioner and the son of a local politician, all from north-east France where DSK began his political career, arranged parties for him where the only other guests, apart from themselves, were young women available for sex. You can see what was in it for the four friends. They would give DSK a good time and, when he became President of France, which was an excellent bet until the New York incident, they would have their rewards. And no finger of suspicion would be directed at anybody.

The magistrates tacked this way and that trying to find a favourable wind. They began by saying that the four men had arranged 15 parties for DSK's benefit in Paris, Lille, Belgium and Washington. "It was never apparent to me that they were for my benefit," DSK responded. "But one of the friends states that while you were not the instigator, you were obviously happy to be involved." DSK replied: "He is right to say that I was not the instigator, but I am always happy when my friends invite me to something."

Then the magistrates turned to something one of the girls had said. DSK was very active so far as the sex was concerned and he was especially interested in newcomers rather than the more familiar girls. "As to the first part," commented DSK, "that is her opinion. And it is true that the interest of these occasions rests in part upon their novelty."

Another witness had told the magistrates that the girls at these parties were dressed in a provocative, vulgar fashion. Again DSK accepted the facts. "At these types of evenings, the girls can be provocatively dressed, but that doesn't prove that they were prostitutes." Then he offered the magistrates a lesson in debauchery (le libertinage is the word DSK used). "You must understand that it consists in having free and consensual relationships. You may think what you want so far as morals are concerned, but the sex was not paid for."

But what about the differences in age? Two of the girls were in their early twenties. "Do you think that if they had not been paid, they would have contemplated having sexual relations with you taking into account the age difference?" "Madame," replied DSK to one of the magistrates, "many of the young women with whom I have been able to have a sexual transaction – sorry, the word is badly chosen – a sexual relationship, had the same difference of age."

Finally, the magistrates are getting somewhere. DSK has moved away from his "accept the facts, dispute the interpretation" line and failed to prevent a slip of the tongue – "a transaction". And, at the same time, he has become boastful about his conquests, potentially another weakness. So they press DSK further on the use of language.

In the messages between DSK and the four friends that the magistrates had seen, he had referred to the girls as "material" and, when the friends and the girls had had to travel to meet him, as their "baggage". The magistrates commented: "You seem to have little regard or respect for the young women, one of whom has told us that she felt as if she was an object for purely sexual consumption." All DSK could say was that he had indeed used such descriptions but that he did not, nevertheless, consider women as objects.

The masterclass is beginning to go less well. But, unfortunately, the extracts stop at that point. I doubt if the verbal slips will serve to convict DSK. You cannot prove "understandings". Only agreements will do.

a.whittamsmith@independent.co.uk

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Jamie Oliver joins children as they celebrate Food Revolution Day 2014 by cooking bread, making smoothies and creating salads at St Paul's Whitechapel CE Primary School in London  

Teaching children to cook at school is a recipe for self-respect

Grace Dent
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before