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Head of IMF held in sexual assault case in New York

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, is taken off a plane about to leave JFK and questioned about allegations he sexually assaulted a hotel maid.

May 15, 2011|By Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times
  • Managing Director of the IMF and former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a file photo.
Managing Director of the IMF and former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn… (Horacio Villalobos / EPA )

Reporting from New York — Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was hauled off a flight about to leave JFK airport for Paris on Saturday to be questioned about allegations he sexually assaulted a maid in a Times Square-area hotel, a police spokesman said.

Update, Sunday 12:07 a.m.: IMF leader arrested and charged

Strauss-Kahn, who is also an important figure in French politics, was taken to the Harlem headquarters of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, which investigates rape and other sex crimes. He was expected to be charged with committing a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment, said Paul Browne, deputy New York City police commissioner.

"A 32-year-old chambermaid at a Sofitel on 44th Street said that at about 1 p.m., she entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn's room to clean when he came out of the bathroom naked, pushed her onto the bed and assaulted her," Browne said. The maid told police that before she could escape, Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex, Browne said.

She immediately told her supervisor, but before investigators could get to Strauss-Kahn's room, he had left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone and other personal items, Browne said.

Police learned the IMF official was booked on a 4:40 p.m. Air France flight bound for Paris and notified airport police to hold the plane, which was turned back as it taxied from the gate. Strauss-Kahn was in his seat when he was taken into custody, Browne said, noting he did not have diplomatic immunity.

The maid was treated for minor injuries at a Manhattan hospital.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Saturday night that it had no comment; an official of the U.S. Justice Department said "at this time" the case was being handled by New York police and there was no federal jurisdiction.

For the last four years, Strauss-Kahn, 62, has been the managing director of the IMF, a lending institution with 186 member countries that helps oversee the global economy.

Within a year of assuming the job, Strauss-Kahn was investigated by the IMF board over whether he had an improper relationship with a former female employee. The board concluded his actions were "regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment" but took no action against its top manager because the relationship was consensual and did not involve any abuse of authority.

A former corporate lawyer and an economics professor at several top French universities, Strauss-Kahn has long been a key player in the French Socialist Party and was considered a likely candidate to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next May's election.

Sarkozy backed Strauss-Kahn, a political opponent, for the IMF position, though there was speculation that he did so to deprive the Socialists of a popular leader.

Strauss-Kahn has run unsuccessfully to be his party's nominee for president; he has also served as a member of the French National Assembly and as a Cabinet minister in left-leaning governments.

He is married to Anne Sinclair, his third wife, who is a leading television journalist in Paris.

geraldine.baum@latimes.com

Richard A. Serrano, Kathleen Hennessey and Bob Drogin in the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

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