Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn goes on trial Monday accused of “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 — on charges related to his role in a vice ring in which his entourage organised sex parties for him in Brussels, Paris and Washington.
The silver-haired Strauss-Kahn is due to attend the first day of the trial in the presence of around 250 journalists, expected to cram the court and an overflow room during hearings, which get under way at 1300 GMT.
Lurid details of group sex and high-end prostitution are expected to emerge in the three-week trial, during which Strauss-Kahn will take the stand alongside a colourful cast of characters including luxury hotel managers, police, freemasons and a brothel owner nicknamed “Dodo the Pimp.”
AFP / S.Ramis/A.Bommenel, JJ/JFS
Dominique Strauss-Kahn: rise and fall
The pimping charge against Strauss-Kahn is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million).
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty, the court will on Monday deal with a host of procedural applications, including a request for the trial to take place behind closed doors from one of the prostitutes testifying.
The court will also mull a request to have the trial declared invalid, over allegations investigations were secretly being carried out for eight months before the opening of an official enquiry.
The trial will be the latest in a series of legal woes that have offered judges and journalists 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.
AFP / Philippe Huguen
The case has become known as the “Carlton Affair” after the swish hotel in Lille where sex parties were held
While those criminal charges were dropped and the case settled in a civil suit, further humiliation ensued as a litany of sordid tales emerged.
Then, six months after the scandal in New York, his name cropped up in an investigation into a prostitution ring in northern France and Belgium known as the “Carlton Affair” after one of the swish hotels in Lille where local businessmen and police officials organised sex parties.
– Self-confessed ‘libertine’ –
The run-of-the-mill probe into a vice ring revealed some of the prostitutes involved had been paid to participate in orgies attended by Strauss-Kahn, who was charged with “aggravated pimping in an organised group”.
He admits to being a “libertine” who enjoys orgies but has steadfastly denied knowing the women were paid.
This is the crux of the case against him: whether he knew the women lavishing their attention on him were prostitutes and whether he played a role in organising their presence.
Prostitution is legal in France, but “proxenitisme”, or procuring, is not.
AFP / Martin Bureau
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves after a hearing before an investigation committee at the French Senate on June 26, 2013 in Paris
So-called pimping has a much wider scope in the eyes of the law than its usual definition of acting as an agent for prostitutes, and includes profiting from and aiding and abetting prostitution.
But even prosecutors have been divided over whether there is enough evidence for DSK to face trial. In 2013 state prosecutor Frederic Fevre called for the charges to be dropped, but investigating judges overruled him and ordered DSK to stand trial.
– ‘King of the party’ –
Their probe found that DSK was the “king of the party,” and they are seeking to prove his mere presence gave rise to prostitution as his entourage organised the evenings according to his schedule.
Those attending the gatherings described “carnage with a heap of mattresses on the floor”, with DSK the focus of several women at a time in an atmosphere more of “pure sexual consummation” than a typical swinger’s party.
AFP / Francois Lo Presti
Belgian brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld or “Dodo la Saumure”, seen here in April 2014, also denies the charge of procuring prostitutes
The first to take the stand among the 14 accused on Tuesday will be the Carlton’s former public relations manager Rene Kojfer who is accused of organising prostitutes for “well-connected men”, often setting them up in his hotel.
He is also accused of doing publicity for another accused, a pimp who owns a string of brothels near the French border in Belgium, where rules are more lax.
Dominique Alderweireld, nicknamed “Dodo la Saumure” — which loosely translates as Dodo the Mackerel, the French slang for pimp — is accused of procuring prostitutes for Kojfer, some of whom were employed at the orgies attended by DSK.
Strauss-Kahn himself will be cross-examined from February 10.