Woman undergoes treatment for “minor injuries”
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken off an Air France plane at Kennedy International Airport just minutes before it was to take off for Paris on Saturday and arrested in connection with the sexual attack of a maid at a Midtown Manhattan hotel, the authorities said.
Strauss-Kahn (62), who was widely expected to become the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, was apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the first class section of the jetliner, and immediately turned over to detectives from the Manhattan Special Victims squad, which covers the part of Manhattan where the hotel is, said officials.
The New York Police Department took Mr. Strauss-Kahn into custody, where he was “being questioned in connection with the sexual assault of a hotel chambermaid earlier this afternoon,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, department's chief spokesman, on Saturday night. “He is being arrested for a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment.”
A spokeswoman for the office of the Manhattan district attorney said prosecutors were investigating the matter and were expected to bring formal criminal charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn by early Sunday.
Reached by telephone, Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer, said he would be representing Mr. Strauss-Kahn with William Taylor, a lawyer in Washington.
“We have not yet been able to meet with our client and we may have more to say on tomorrow [Monday],” said Mr. Brafman, who said he had been contacted late Saturday. He said Mr. Strauss-Kahn was being housed at the Police Department's Special Victims Unit.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a former French Finance Minister, had been expected to declare his candidacy soon after three and a half years as the leader of the Fund, which is based in Washington, where he was considered by many to have done a good job in a period of intense global economic strain, when the bank itself had become vital to the smooth running of the world and the European economy.
His apprehension came about 4:40 p.m., when two Port Authority detectives suddenly boarded Air France Flight 23, as the plane idled on the tarmac, said John P.L. Kelly, a spokesman for the agency.
“It was 10 minutes before its scheduled departure,” said Mr. Kelly. “They were just about to close the doors.”
Mr. Kelly said Mr. Strauss-Kahn was travelling alone and was not handcuffed during the apprehension.
“He complied with the detectives' directions.”
The Port Authority officers were acting on information from the New York Police Department, whose detectives had been investigating the assault of a female employee of the Sofitel New York in the heart of the theatre district. Working quickly, the city detectives learned he had boarded a flight at Kennedy airport to leave the country.
Though Mr. Strauss-Kahn received generally high marks for his stewardship of the bank, his reputation was tarnished in 2008 by an affair with a Hungarian economist who was a subordinate at the bank. The fund decided to stand by him despite concluding that he had shown poor judgment in conducting the affair. Mr. Strauss-Kahn issued an apology to employees at the bank and his wife, Anne Sinclair, a U.S.-born French television journalist.
In his statement then, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said, “I am grateful that the Board has confirmed that there was no abuse of authority on my part, but I accept that this incident represents a serious error of judgment.” The economist, Piroska Nagy, left the fund as part of a buyout of nearly 600 employees instituted by Mr. Strauss-Kahn to cut costs.
In the New York case, Mr. Browne said, it was about 1 p.m. on Saturday when the chambermaid, a 32-year-old woman, entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn's suite Room 2806 believing it to be unoccupied. Mr. Browne said the suite, which cost $3,000 a night, had a foyer, a conference room, a living room and a bedroom, and that Mr. Strauss-Khan had checked in Friday.
As she was in the foyer, “he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her,” said Mr. Browne. “He grabs her, according to her account and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed,” Mr. Browne added. He locked the door to the suite, Mr. Browne said.
“She fights him off and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time,” Mr. Browne added.
At some point during the assault, the woman broke free, Mr. Browne said, and “she fled, reported it to other hotel personnel, who called 911. When the police arrived, he was not there.” Mr. Browne said Mr. Strauss-Kahn appeared to have left in a hurry. In the room, investigators found his cellphone, which he had left behind, and one law enforcement official said the investigation uncovered forensic evidence that would contain DNA.
Mr. Browne added: “We learned that he was on an Air France plane,” and the plane was held at the gate, where Mr. Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody.” Later on Saturday night, Mr. Browne said Mr. Strauss-Kahn was in a police holding cell.
Mr. Browne said the city's Emergency Medical Services took the maid to Roosevelt Hospital for what Mr. Browne described as treatment for “minor injuries”.
No matter the outcome of Saturday's arrest, it will most likely throw the French political world into turmoil and the Socialist Party into an embarrassed confusion.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a leading member of the party, has been considered the front-runner for the next presidential election in France in May 2012. Opinion polls have shown him to be the Socialists' most popular candidate and running well ahead of the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, who leads the centre-right party.
France has been waiting for Mr. Strauss-Kahn to decide whether to run for his party's nomination in a series of primaries, which would mean giving up his post at the Fund.
The view in France was that if Mr. Strauss-Kahn wanted to run he would have to make his intentions clear early this summer, and most politicians and analysts have been predicting that he would not be able to resist the chance of running the country.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn contested for the nomination five years ago, losing to Segolene Royal, who in the end lost a second-round runoff to Mr. Sarkozy. Mr. Sarkozy then arranged for Mr. Strauss-Kahn to get the IMF job, partly to remove a popular rival from the French political landscape.
Mr. Strauss-Kahn was the French Minister of Economy under the Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin from 1997-99, and he has also been a professor of economics at the prestigious Paris Institute for Political Studies.
In 1995, he was elected mayor of Sarcelles, a poor suburb of Paris, and married Ms. Sinclair.
The couple are known for their enjoyment of the finer things in life, and Mr. Strauss-Kahn has sometimes been attacked for being a “caviar leftist.”
Mr. Strauss-Kahn and his wife were photographed recently getting into an expensive Porsche in Paris belonging to one of their friends. The image of a Socialist with “Porsche” tastes was quickly picked up by the press, especially the newspapers that generally support Mr. Sarkozy. — New York Times News Service