2 Feb 2015

DSK ‘prostitution ring’ trial: who, what and where?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is on trial in France, accused of “aggravated pimping”. What might the trial throw up for the former IMF head, who else is involved in it, and what is aggravated pimping?

He was described by former colleagues as a brilliant political operator, a masterful politician and someone who exuded charm with an ability to “seduce with words”.

Now, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund once tipped as a future president of France, is on trial to face charges for his alleged role in a prostitution ring.

The French newspaper Le Monde claims the 210 pages making up the summary of allegations read like a made-for-television movie from the 1950s set in the city of Lille, in which strangers meet from 5 to 7pm to pay for love at reasonably elegant hotels.

He denies the charges, and is expected to say that he had sexual relations with women at libertine parties organised by friends in Paris and Washington, but that he did not realise the women were prostitutes who had been paid for their participation.

What is aggravated pimping?

Mr Strauss-Kahn is accused of aiding, assisting and protecting the prostitution of seven people between March 2008 and October 2011, according to Judge Bernard Lemaire at Lille Criminal Court.

Investigators have compiled hundreds of pages of testimony from prostitutes describing orgies Mr Strauss-Kahn and co-defendants were alleged to have organised, mainly at the Carlton Hotel in Lille, near the Belgian border.

He is accused of using his business contacts to hire women for sex parties in Paris, Lille and Washington.

In Britain, the charges are usually described as “aggravated pimping”.

The charge of “aggravated pimping” may have got slightly lost in translation. In French, he is charged with “proxénétisme aggravé”: proxénétisme means procurement, and aggravé means aggravated.

The French penal code says that, proxénétisme, or procurement, can cover aiding or assisting in prostitution, financial gain from prostitution, or hiring or leading someone into prostutition.

In this case, the charge is aggravated because the allegations meet two conditions for being aggravated: many people were sold into sex, and their prostitution was organised by a group of accomplices.

So “aggravated pimping”, or aggravated procurement, refers largely to helping to run a prostitution ring.

It is not illegal to pay for sex in France, but it is against the law to solicit or run a prostutition business.

Who’s involved?

As well as Mr Strauss-Kahn, a number of others are on trial.

Dominique Alderweireld (left), or Dodo la Saumure, a friend of Mr Kojfer’s and Belgian brothel owner. His nickname derives from the French for mackerel: la Samure is the brine used to cure mackerel, with the fish being a slang term for pimp. He is charged with providing girls to have sex with clients in France – Lille and Paris – and Washington. His partner, Béatrice Legrain, is accused of the same.

Jean-Christophe Lagarde (left), a police divisional chief commissioner who was head of urban security for the Nord administrative region that includes Lille.

He is accused of having brought Mr Strauss-Kahn and prostitutes together.

David Roquet (left), head of Matériaux Enrobés du Nord, a subsidiary of the French construction giant Eiffage. He is accused of using his corporate expense account to cover part of the bill for evenings with prostitutes in Paris. Fabrice Paszkowski, the owner of a specialist store selling medical eqjuipment, is also accused of paying for part of the bill for sex parties in Paris, in which Mr Strauss-Kahn is said to have taken part.

René Kojfer, the former public relations officer of the Lille Carlton, was the first to be charged in the case. Lille magistrates suspect him of having put prostitutes in contact with businessmen from the Pas de Calais region. They claim they were acquainted with Mr Strauss-Kahn.

François Henrion, manager of the Hotel de Tours, and the director of the Carlton. Hervé Franchois, owner. Both are accused of having rented rooms to prostitutes for personal benefit.

Mounia, a former prostitute, who claims to have been presented by Mr Kojfer, through a lawyer who had paid her for sex. Claims to have been paid to have sex with Mr Strauss-Kahn.

Jade, a former prostitute of Dodo’s. Allegedly recruited by Mr Roquet and Mr Paszkowski to participate in sexual parties in Paris, Brussels and Washington with Mr Strauss-Kahn.

How long will the trial last and what does Mr Strauss-Kahn face?

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 1.5 million euros.

Mr Strauss-Kahn says he anticipates that he will be found not guilty, potentially paving the way for a return to public life although he is understood to be ambivalent about a return to French politics. At the weekend, a poll said that 79 per cent of the French public still think he would have made a better president than the incumbent, Francois Hollande.

He is not said to have benefitted materially from the parties organised; even prosecutors called for the charges to be dropped after his lawyers noted that the investigation was opened in 2010 when he announced he was hoping to run as the Socialist candidate against Nicolas Sarkozy for the 2012 presidential campaign.