Dominique Strauss-Kahn acquitted in pimping trial

French court clears former International Monetary Fund chief of ‘aggravated pimping’ in multi-defendant trial over sex parties

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, has been cleared by a French court of “aggravated pimping”.

The one-time French presidential hopeful, who has described seeking “recreation” from the stress of world politics by having rough sex with strangers at orgies in Europe and the US, was found not to have promoted or profited from the prostitution of seven women.

The judges said Strauss-Kahn was not the instigator of the orgies with prostitutes. Throughout his trial, he maintained he did not know that some of the women brought to him by businessmen friends at group-sex sessions were prostitutes, saying he thought they were merely swingers like himself. The businessmen had told the women not to say they had been paid.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer, Henri Leclerc, said the case against him had been “totally empty”, accusing investigating magistrates of a moral crusade with no legal foundation.

The wide-reaching trial in the northern French city of Lille revealed a saga of money, fame and women travelling to luxury locations for sex with powerful men against a backdrop of economic deprivation and social misery.

Known as the Carlton affair, the case began in 2011 as an investigation into an alleged prostitution network at Lille’s Hotel Carlton, where women – described as “livestock” or “dossiers” – had been offered up as the “dessert course” at business lunches. Strauss-Kahn was never involved in any alleged activity at the hotel, but when his name was mentioned by sex workers in interviews with investigators, the inquiry was widened.

Thirteen other men appeared in court on pimping charges, many with no connection to Strauss-Kahn, but the high-profile coverage of the case centred on the former IMF chief and how he sought to wind down from managing the fallout from the global financial crisis by having sex with strangers brought to him at orgies by businessmen keen to curry favour.

The trial exposed not only Strauss-Kahn’s secret double life but also the harrowing accounts of some of the women with whom he had sex.

Between 2009 and 2011, the years covered by the trial, Strauss-Kahn held the most senior economic job in the world in Washington, and he was convinced he would become the next Socialist president of France. He invited TV crews to document his cosy and high-profile marriage to Anne Sinclair, an influential French journalist and feminist, who has since divorced him.

During his working day, however, he would send text messages asking a businessman friend to join him at a “magnificent” swingers’ club in Madrid and bring him some “equipment”, a term he admitted meant women. While in Brussels for IMF meetings, he would be driven to the countryside at night for group sex with strangers on mattresses on the floor of a swingers’ club. Throughout the trial, he said he never knew or suspected that there were prostitutes among the many women brought to him at the sessions.

The trial was marked by the tearful accounts of two destitute and vulnerable prostitutes who were among the women brought to locations in Paris, Brussels and Washington to have sex with Strauss-Kahn. They likened the orgies to “slaughter”, “killing” and “butchery”. The former IMF chief told the trial that he had regrettably discovered during the court hearings that he had “a sexuality that was rougher than the average man” but that he believed “no means no”.

Mounia, a Lille sex worker whom court papers described as having been sexually abused as a child, broke down in tears as she told the court how, at an orgy in Paris, Strauss-Kahn had subjected her to anal penetration against her wishes. She said that when he saw she was crying and in pain he smiled and went ahead “with force”.

Asked by the judge whether he had noticed her crying, Strauss-Kahn said: “No, I would have found it chilling.” He said he did not have a precise memory of the woman, but that he had had no sense of refusal. “When someone says no, it’s no,” he said.

Another prostitute, Jade, who was also sexually abused as a child, described the atmosphere at one Paris hotel orgy. She said of Strauss-Kahn: “No one asked me my name, there was just a hand on my head to fellate him.” She later broke down in tears as she told the court how on a different occasion Strauss-Kahn had also subjected her to anal penetration against her wishes. “I didn’t have time to say no,” she said.

Strauss-Kahn told the court he did not view his sexual encounter with Jade in the same way that she did. “I didn’t realise,” he said. “I’m not for doing things that are disagreeable for partners.

“I had no way of knowing she didn’t want it … It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry it happened like that.”

Throughout the trial, Strauss-Kahn maintained the suggestion that he had to be brought “fresh meat” by businessmen friends was a “disgrace”. He insisted he never had sex with prostitutes because “I prefer a party atmosphere before, during and after”. As he told one sexual partner: “I have a horror of whores.”

Prostitution involving people over the age of 18 is not illegal in France, but pimping and living off the benefits is. Just as the Strauss-Kahn verdict came through, however, the French parliament voted in a second reading to criminalise prostitutes’ clients, making payment for sex punishable by a fine. The bill must now return to the senate for a further reading.

Strauss-Kahn had told the court that group-sex sessions were rare “recreation” in his hectic schedule as IMF chief, taking place only four times a year because he had been very busy “saving the world from catastrophe” at the time of the US sub-prime crisis.

The two entrepreneurs from northern France who flew women to the US for orgies involving Strauss-Kahn ended their last visit on 13 May 2011, the day before he was arrested in New York over the alleged attempted rape of a hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo.

Criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn in the Diallo case were dropped by prosecutors in New York, and he later settled a civil action with her out of court. The case marked the end of his political career in France, where he is now seen as a pariah, and his acquittal on pimping charges in the Carlton case is not expected to change that view.

Strauss-Kahn’s two businessmen friends and a police chief acquaintance were also cleared of pimping charges on Friday. Dominique Alderweireld, 65 – known as Dodo la Saumure or Dodo the Pimp, and who runs brothels in Belgium – was acquitted of sending prostitutes from his establishments to Paris and the US for Strauss-Kahn.

René Kojfer, 74, the former head of public relations at the Hotel Carlton in Lille, was the only man to be convicted. He was given a one-year suspended sentence for pimping – charges which had no connection to Strauss-Kahn.


Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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