16 May 2011

IMF chief remanded in custody on attempted rape charge

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is denied bail after being arrested on suspicion of attempted rape as Economics Editor Faisal Islam says the scandal “will matter” as austerity measures grip Europe.

IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn has been remanded in custody after being charged with the attempted rape of a chambermaid in a New York hotel.

He was denied bail after prosecutors told the New York’s Criminal Court that they were concerned he might flee to France if released.

Strauss-Kahn’s defence team had proposed a $1 million bail package, but judge Melissa Jackson ordered him to stay behind bars until his next court appearance on May 20.

His lawyers indicated he intends to plead guilty to charges of a criminal sexual act, unlawful imprisonment and attempted rape.

Faisal Islam blog: What DSK's problems mean for austerity Europe
"My initial response to the alleged tawdry tabloid travails of Dominique Strauss-Kahn was that it probably did not matter in terms of the economy. But after hearing from senior officials i've since reassessed my view." Read more from Faisal Islam: DSK's difficulties will matter

Strauss-Kahn was arrested on Sunday after a 32-year-old chambermaid at the Times Square Sofitel in New York picked him out of police lineup that included six other men.

The woman said Strauss-Kahn, the early favourite in France’s presidential race, jumped out of his hotel bathroom naked, chased her down a hall then pulled her into a bedroom and tried to force himself on her.

The IMF chief’s lawyer William Taylor said his client had “willingly consented to a scientific and forensic examination” and will plead not guilty The alleged victim was treated in hospital for minor injuries. She has worked at the hotel for three years and the property’s manager said she has been a “completely satisfactory” employee in her work and her behaviour.

Police say Strauss-Kahn left his $3,000-a-day suite in a hurry after the alleged assault, leaving his mobile phone behind. Officers pulled him out of the first-class section of an Air France flight bound for Paris a few minutes before take-off after he called the hotel to ask about the phone.

'Possibly the most high-profile civil arrest ever' 
It's possibly the most high profile civil arrest of all time. News of it is so shocking, so repelling, that one gulps upon hearing it on the radio, writes Channel 4 News Presenter Jon Snow.

The first classedness of so squalid an accusation. The most expensive hotel suite, most of us have ever heard of, let alone seen; a mobile phone belonging to the accused; a chamber maid; the arrest itself not just aboard a departing plane at John F Kennedy Airport, but in the first class compartment of his own national airline, Air France; an identity parade and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Read more from Jon Snow on Strauss-Kahn: the human catastrophe

A few hours after checking out of the his luxury suite, the world’s most powerful banker found himself in a cell in New York’s tough Harlem neighbourhood.

Detectives forced him to run the gauntlet of press photographers as they led him to a police car with his hands cuffed behind his back, en route to to the booking station at Manhattan Criminal Court.

Wearing a black overcoat, a blue dress shirt and black trousers, Strauss-Kahn kept his eyes straight ahead to avoid looking at the cameras.

Police say he does not have diplomatic immunity from the charges, which if proven could carry a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years. They have reportedly collected DNA evidence from the hotel suite.

It’s something degrading for all women. It’s terrible for the image of France. Francois Bayrou

The IMF chief led the organisation through the 2007-09 global financial meltdown, pressing for stimulus measures and interest rate cuts to avoid a depression, and has been central in urging Europe to tackle its growing debt crisis.

He was widely expected to run for the Socialist Party nomination for the French presidential race, with early opinion polls giving him a big lead over the conservative incumbent, Mr Sarkozy.

An IFOP survey published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday found that Strauss-Kahn would have led a presidential first round with 26 per cent of the vote, with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on 22 per cent and Sarkozy at 21.5 per cent.

The IMF said Strauss-Kahn had been in New York on private business. He has hired lawyer Benjamin Brafman, a defence attorney who has represented celebrities including Michael Jackson, to lead his defence team.

News ‘struck like a thunderbolt’

Strauss-Kahn’s wife, French television personality Anne Sinclair, said she did not believe the accusations “for a single second” and other supporters in France cautioned against a rush to judgment.

Francois Baroin, a spokesman for the French government, said: “We have to be extremely prudent in analysis, comments and consequences. The position of the French government respects two principles: a legal process under the authority of American justice … and the respect of the presumption of innocence.”

Martine Aubry, leader of the Socialist Party, said: “The news we received from New York last night struck like a thunderbolt. I call on the Socialists to stay united and reasonable. I urge that we wait for the facts, respect the presumption of innocence and maintain the necessary decency.”

Herve Morin, president of the New Centre Party, said: “I’m not a socialist, he is not my political friend, but despite that I call for the presumption of innocence. I will not take part in the witch hunt, with the dogs that are barking and those spreading rumours and saying ‘I told you so’.”

The centrist former presidential candidate Francois Bayrou said: “All this is completely astounding, immensely troubling and distressing. If the facts prove true … it’s something degrading for all women. It’s terrible for the image of France.”

Michel Taubmann, Strauss-Kahn’s biographer, said: “Evidently, it could harm his career if it proves true that he has committed these acts, but if he manages to clear himself of this then it could be beneficial to him.

“If he’s falsely accused, that could benefit him because the French don’t like someone being wrongly accused.”