IMF Chief Faces Sex-Assault Charges

May 15, 2011

David Folkenflik

The chief executive of the International Monetary Fund was pulled off an airplane Saturday at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport just minutes before it was scheduled to depart for his native France after a hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in Manhattan.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was widely expected to be the presidential candidate of France's Socialist Party a year from now, was apprehended by police for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey while seated in the first-class cabin of the Air France aircraft.

New York City police arrested him on suspicion of committing a criminal sex act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment. Strauss-Kahn, 62, was being transferred Sunday afternoon from a booking center to a Manhattan courthouse to await an arraignment hearing at which prosecutors will lodge formal criminal charges.

Strauss-Kahn had been staying in an expansive suite on the 28th floor of the Sofitel, a luxury hotel just a block-and-a-half from Times Square in midtown Manhattan.

The 32-year-old woman gave this account, according to a police spokesman: At approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, she was told to go to clean Strauss-Kahn's suite, which she understood to be empty. Instead, Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom clad only in a towel, chased her in the suite, dragged her to a bedroom and began to sexually assault her there. She told police that he then forced her to perform oral sex on him before she was able to break free. Staffers at the hotel called police, but the suite was deserted by the time officers arrived minutes later. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital, treated there and released.

Strauss-Kahn's attorney, the New York City defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman, told several news agencies that his client would plead "not guilty."

IMF spokesman William Murray said Strauss-Kahn's deputy, John Lipsky, will serve as his replacement for the interim and chair an informal board session being held Sunday. Lipsky will also chair the informal board meeting that was hastily arranged in the wake of the arrest.

Strauss-Kahn, a popular left-of-center politician in France, has been largely praised for his leadership of the IMF during a turbulent and shifting time for the world economy. Even so, the IMF bailouts of countries with tenuous economies such as Greece and Portugal have triggered some criticism, while the austerity measures required in each have triggered widespread protests there.

But Strauss-Kahn, who is married, has previously drawn critical scrutiny for his personal life and behavior. He notably had an affair three years ago with a married senior Hungarian economist at the IMF who was the head of the fund's Africa division at the time. An IMF board panel exonerated him of acting with favoritism but signaled disdain for his actions. The Hungarian economist subsequently left the IMF for a job with a European financial agency. A book last year made claims Strauss-Kahn pursued sexual liaisons with many other women; in addition, a French journalist, Tristane Banon, has alleged she had to fend off his advances forcibly nine years ago.

According to The Associated Press, it was not clear why Strauss-Kahn was in New York City on Saturday. The IMF is based in Washington, D.C., and he was scheduled to appear in Berlin on Sunday. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.