May 21 (Bloomberg) -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, faces a preliminary inquiry from prosecutors in France over allegations he and other men raped a prostitute in Washington in December 2010.
The probe stems from evidence gathered during an investigation by judges in Lille of prostitutes being sent to the U.S., which resulted in charges against Strauss-Kahn in March, the prosecution said today in an e-mailed statement.
The investigating judges referred to prosecutors details of “events which took place in Washington, between Dec. 15 and 18, 2010, which they felt could be qualified as group rape,” according to the statement.
Strauss-Kahn, 63, was charged with procurement in the Northern French city in the so-called Carlton affair, named for the local hotel where the prostitution investigation began. The rape probe goes beyond allegations he actively participated in the prostitution ring by organizing sex parties. The charge could result in a sentence of as long as 20 years in prison and 3 million euros ($3.8 million) in fines under French law.
The opening of the inquiry based on the woman’s statements to investigators, rather than a formal complaint of rape, “shows the unbelievable determination” of the prosecutors and is a sign of “weakness” on their part, said Richard Malka, a lawyer representing Strauss-Kahn.
Strauss-Kahn, who one year ago was a presidential hopeful for France’s Socialist Party, has denied the prostitution case allegations, claiming he didn’t know that the women were being paid, and refutes claims of violence, his lawyers have said. Paying for sex is legal in France. Procuring prostitutes for someone else isn’t.
Two prostitutes told investigators they participated in a sex party with four men, including Strauss-Kahn, in Washington, Agence France-Presse said today, citing police statements by the women. One said she was forced to perform non-consensual sex acts, telling the police, “I didn’t shout, but I clearly said in a loud voice that I didn’t want to,” according to the AFP report.
“This is really turning the heat up, pimping and rape are not the same thing, neither are very attractive, but gang rape is a completely different kettle of fish,” said Christopher Mesnooh, a Paris lawyer who isn’t involved in the case. “There have been some comments about the credibility of these witnesses, but clearly the prosecutors believe this is something worth investigating.”
Strauss-Kahn has appealed restrictions tied to his bail, including a ban on talking to the media, with another of his lawyers, Henri Leclerc, saying at a Paris press conference in March that it violated his human rights. A closed-door hearing on his request to loosen the restraints is scheduled for May 23.
“It would be hard to square investigating group rape with easing up on the terms of his release,” said Mesnooh. “That’s probably a non-starter.”
The former IMF managing director gave up his post last year after being arrested in New York on charges he sexually assaulted a hotel maid. Local prosecutors dropped that case because of concerns about his accuser’s credibility and Strauss-Kahn returned to France, where he faced a separate accusation of attempted rape, which was also dropped.
Strauss-Kahn lost his bid to block a civil suit by the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, over arguments he benefited from diplomatic immunity at the time of the incident, which he called a “moral fault” that “involved no violence, no coercion, no aggression.”
He filed a counterclaim against Diallo on May 15 seeking damages of at least $1 million for a “malicious and wanton” false accusation, according to his court filing.
To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Smith in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at email@example.com