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IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrested on rape, sex attack charges

PTI     May 16, 2011
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, tipped to run for the French Presidency in 2012, was charged on Sunday with attempted rape and sexual assault on a hotel maid in New York, after being dragged out from a Paris-bound airplane, minutes before it was to take off.

62-year-old Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the Washington-based IMF since 2007, was taken off an Air France plane's first-class cabin at the John F Kennedy International Airport and apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The New York Police Department arrested Kahn at 2.15 am Sunday "on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and an unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a 32-year chambermaid in the luxury suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel on Saturday" about 1 pm, Deputy Commissioner Paul J Browne, the department's chief spokesman, said.

Two detectives of the Port Authority suddenly boarded Air France Flight 23, as the plane idled at the departure gate, John P L Kelly, a spokesman for the agency said.

"It was 10 minutes before its scheduled departure," said Kelly. "They were just about to close the doors."

Reached by telephone, Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer, said he would be representing Strauss-Kahn with William Taylor, a lawyer in Washington, New York Times reported.

"We have not yet been able to meet with our client and we may have more to say on Monday," said Brafman, who said he had been contacted late Saturday night.

He said Strauss-Kahn was being housed at the police department's Special Victims Unit.

Authorities were investigating an alleged attack on a maid at the Sofitel New York hotel earlier in the day, police said.

The IMF chief was in the shower when the 32-year-old maid entered his room at the Sofitel on West 44th Street in Manhattan on Saturday. He allegedly emerged naked from the shower, grabbed the maid and forced her to perform oral sex, the media here said.

According to an account published by local media, the maid entered Kahn's suite believing it was unoccupied.

The maid was taken by police to hospital and was being treated for minor injuries. A spokesman for the hotel said its staff is cooperating with the investigations.

In Washington, the IMF had no immediate comments on the incident involving its chief.

Strauss-Kahn had earlier won praise for his handling of the global financial crisis as the IMF head.

Strauss-Kahn, who was widely expected to stand in the 2012 French presidential elections as a Socialist candidate against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, was in 2008 also embroiled in a controversy after accusations surfaced of his sexual relationship with one of his subordinates, a Hungarian economist, in the IMF's Africa Department.

The IMF board, which investigated the case that time, ruled his actions "reflected a serious error of judgement" but that the relationship had been consensual.

Kahn had then apologised to IMF staff and his wife, US-born French TV personality Anne Sinclair.

"While this incident constituted an error in judgement on my part, for which I take full responsibility, I firmly believe that I have not abused my position," Kahn wrote in an email to IMF staff after the affair became public.

Sinclaire is his third wife. He has four children from two previous marriages.

Strauss-Kahn, had served as France's Minister of Economy and Finance from 1997 to 1999.

A Port authority spokesperson SAID, Strauss-Kahn was traveling alone and was not handcuffed during the apprehension. The IMF chief "complied with the detectives' directions," Kelly said.

Separately, Deputy Commissioner Browne said it was about 1 pm local time on Saturday when the maid entered Strauss-Kahn's $3,000-a- night suite believing it was unoccupied.

As she was in the foyer, "he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her," Browne was quoted as saying by NYT. "He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed," Browne said, adding he locked the door to the suite.

"She fights him off, and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time," he said.

At some point during the assault, the woman broke free and "fled, reported it to other hotel personnel, who called 911. When the police arrived, he was not there," Browne said, adding Strauss-Kahn appeared to have left in a hurry.

Investigators found his cellphone in the room, which he had left behind, and one law enforcement official said that investigation uncovered forensic evidence that would contain DNA.

Strauss-Kahn, who had a meeting planned with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has a special arrangement with Air France that allows him to get on any flight and sit in first class, unnamed sources were quoted as saying by the New York Post.

In France's 2007 election, Strauss-Kahn lost the Socialist Party nomination to Segolene Royal, who in turn was defeated by Sarkozy, leader of the right-wing Union for a Popular Movement.

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