Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrived in court Monday to stand trial for “pimping” as part of a prostitution ring, four years after a sex scandal cost him his job and a shot at the French presidency.
The disgraced 65-year-old economist finds himself back in the dock — this time in the northern French city of Lille — accused of being at the centre of a vice ring which hired prostitutes for sex parties in Brussels, Paris and Washington.
The silver-haired Strauss-Kahn, dressed in a dark suit, slipped past a throng of journalists to arrive in the empty wood-panelled courtroom, where he paced up and down with his hands in his pockets in front of the imposing stone bench.
Strauss-Kahn — once one of the most powerful men in the world — will take the stand alongside a colourful cast of characters including luxury hotel managers, police, freemasons and a brothel owner nicknamed “Dodo the Pimp.”
Nearly 300 journalists are accredited to cover the three-week trial, the first day of which will be dominated by a host of procedural applications.
Lurid details of group sex and high-end prostitution are likely to emerge in the trial for “aggravated pimping in an organised group”, a charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million).
The trial will be the latest in a series of legal woes offering a peek behind the bedroom door of a man once tipped as a potential challenger to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
The ex-head of the International Monetary Fund, known in France as DSK, saw his career implode in 2011 when he was paraded handcuffed in front of the world’s cameras after a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault.
Those criminal charges were dropped and the case settled in a civil suit, but six months later Strauss-Kahn’s name cropped up in an investigation into a prostitution ring in northern France and Belgium.
Investigators probing the “Carlton Affair” — named after one of the swish hotels in Lille where local businessmen and police officials organised sex parties — found some of the prostitutes involved had been hired to participate in soirees attended by Strauss-Kahn.
Prostitution is legal in France but procuring — the legal term for pimping which includes encouraging, benefiting from or organising prostitution — is punishable by a hefty jail term.
The crux of the case against DSK is whether he knew the women lavishing their attention on him were prostitutes and whether he played a role in organising their presence.
DSK admits to being a “libertine” who enjoys orgies but has steadfastly denied knowing the women were paid.
“In these circumstances one isn’t always clothed, and I challenge you to tell the difference between a prostitute naked and any other woman naked,” DSK’s star lawyer Henri Leclerc, 84, said in 2011.