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France: Strauss-Kahn woes grow with prostitution probe

Publish Date: 18 Nov 2011
Source: Bloomberg
By: Heather Smith

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director, left, with his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, right. Photo: Richard Drew/Pool via Bloomberg

Strauss-Kahn Legal Woes Grow With French Prostitution Probe

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sex life continues to haunt the former International Monetary Fund chief as a prostitution investigation in northern France raises new allegations that may be used against him in a U.S. lawsuit.

Prosecutors in Lille are investigating whether Strauss- Kahn’s alleged meetings with prostitutes were paid for by French construction company Eiffage SA. His name was first linked to the case as officials in New York and Paris dropped separate sexual-assault probes involving Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, gave up his post as managing director of the IMF after Nafissatou Diallo, a maid at the Manhattan Sofitel, said he assaulted her in his hotel room. While prosecutors abandoned the case because of concerns about Diallo’s credibility, she filed a civil suit that her lawyers say will be buttressed by revelations in Paris and Lille.

“This is definitely very, very useful for the case in New York,” said Christopher Mesnooh, a Paris lawyer who isn’t involved in the case. “This would be manna for them if they can use it, because it shows contempt for women.”

Strauss-Kahn said he did nothing wrong in relation to the Lille investigation and asked to be questioned “to put an end to the dangerous and spiteful insinuations” in the press, according to a Nov. 11 statement from his lawyers.

‘Witness or Target’

“We haven’t had any access to the case file, we don’t even know what the accusations are,” Henri Leclerc, one of Strauss- Kahn’s attorneys in Paris, said today. “We’ve never been heard, either as a witness or target.”

Leclerc declined to comment on whether the prostitution investigation could impact the New York civil suit.

In the Paris probe, prosecutors said they could have pursued a sexual assault case against Strauss-Kahn over a writer’s claims he attacked her in 2003 when she went to interview him, were it not barred by the statute of limitations.

The Lille investigation, called the Carlton Affair for the hotel where some of the encounters allegedly occurred, has led to charges against eight people, including three Carlton hotel officials and a local police chief, according to a spokeswoman for prosecutors in the city. Prostitution is legal in France and the investigation has focused on crimes like procurement, misuse of funds, fraud and falsifying documents.

Corporate Funds

The police have been aided by an inquiry at Eiffage, which filed its own complaint for misuse of corporate funds in the affair. Eiffage suspended David Roquet, head of an asphalt- mixing unit near Lille, after he was charged for having allegedly paid for prostitutes with company money, according to an Oct. 21 company statement. An Eiffage spokeswoman said yesterday the internal investigation is continuing and declined to comment beyond the previous statements.

Eiffage’s internal investigation found at least 50,000 euros ($67,400) was spent on 11 sex parties since 2009, Eiffage Chief Executive Officer Pierre Berger said Nov. 6 in the Journal du Dimanche. The company was billed for two trips to Washington, in December 2010 and May 2011, allegedly for Roquet and prostitutes to see Strauss-Kahn, the second on the eve of the trip to New York when he encountered Diallo, according to the Journal du Dimanche.

Roquet’s lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti didn’t return calls to his office for comment. He was cited by the Journal du Dimanche on Nov. 6 as saying Roquet’s superiors knew how he was spending the money, and some bills were marked “DSK,” Strauss-Kahn’s initials.

‘Not Our Business’

“It is not our business to furnish prostitutes,” Berger said in an interview with Journal du Dimanche the same day Dupond-Moretti was cited as saying the company was aware of the expenses. “There was a failure in the checks on billing and expenses,” Berger said, when questioned about the DSK annotations on the bills.

Diallo’s lawyers say they have spoken with women from “throughout the world” about their sexual encounters with Strauss-Kahn and are confident they can use the information in the civil case in New York State Supreme Court, which is awaiting the judge’s decision on his motion to dismiss based on an assertion of diplomatic immunity.

“Some of the people we’ve spoken to have said that he did things against their will and that he was violent,” said Douglas Wigdor, a Diallo lawyer in New York. The stories “show Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s violence against women and his modus operandi toward a lack of consent.”

Judges in civil cases can allow for compromises to permit some evidence that might not otherwise be allowed to refute assertions by the defense, Wigdor said in a telephone interview yesterday.

“If it’s a completely consensual, non-violent prostitution encounter then that would not be something that we would seek to use,” Wigdor said. Should Strauss-Kahn claim that describes all his sexual relationships, “that opens the door, it backs him into a corner.”

Copyright © 2011 Bloomberg L.P.