French court to rule on Strauss-Kahn pimping probe

A French court will Wednesday rule on whether to drop pimping charges against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the latest sex crime case against him in France.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have asked the appeals court in the northern town of Douai to stop a judicial inquiry into claims that he and associates arranged sex parties with prostitutes.

The lawyers have argued the charge of "aggravated pimping in an organised gang" has not been supported and that investigatory procedures were not followed in the case, including with leaks to the press.

The case, known as the "Carlton affair" in France, centres around allegations that business leaders and police officials in Lille operated a vice ring supplying girls for sex parties, some of which are said to have taken place at the Carlton Hotel in the northern city.

Among Strauss-Kahn's fellow accused is Jean-Christophe Lagarde, a police commissioner, and Rene Kojfer, the former public relations officer at the Carlton.

Lawyers for Lagarde and Kojfer have claimed their clients have effectively been caught up in a political witch-hunt against Strauss-Kahn, arguing that there would have been no probe but for his involvement.

A former head of the International Monetary Fund and one-time frontrunner for the French presidency, Strauss-Kahn suffered a stunning fall from grace following his arrest at a New York hotel on sexual assault charges last year and a subsequent string of sex-related investigations in France.

Criminal charges against him were quickly dropped in the US because of doubts over the reliability of the alleged victim's testimony.

She is however pursuing a civil case against her alleged attacker while Strauss-Kahn, 63, has filed a counter suit against her for defamation and is pursuing a claim of malicious prosecution through the US courts.

French prosecutors last month also dropped an investigation into Strauss-Kahn's alleged participation in a gang rape after the woman involved said she had consented and was not pressing charges.

After he resigned from the IMF and returned to France, Strauss-Kahn also faced an accusation from 32-year-old author Tristane Banon that he had tried to rape her in 2002.

French investigating magistrates questioned Strauss-Kahn and his accuser and concluded that, while there was prima facie evidence of a sexual assault, the alleged attack had occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.

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