IMF Head Held on Sexual Assault Charge

Extraordinary news here in New York where the IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn was this afternoon hauled out of the first class cabin of an Air France plane at JFK airport to be arrested for – allegedly – sexually assaulting the chambermaid in his room at the Sofitel Hotel.

According to the New York Times, Strauss-Kahn fled to the airport after the attack, leaving his mobile phone in his room, but was apprehended just 10 minutes before the plane was due to depart.

Strauss-Kahn, who had been expected to run for French President, was embroiled in a sex scandal back in 2008, when he slept with an IMF employee at Davos, and was then accused of ushering her into a new job outside the Fund. Unlike the World Bank’s Paul Wolfowitz, who was forced out for giving preferential treatment to his partner, Strauss-Kahn kept his job.

Ironically, it was only on Friday that the Guardian ran an article by French journalist, Melissa Bounoua, lauding the open-mindedness of the French voter, who she claimed would happily have Strauss-Kahn as President, even if he were a serial shagger for whom consent wasn’t that big a deal.

Is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, current head of the International Monetary Fund, a “queutard” – literally, a man who makes extensive use of his intimate parts?[…] Strauss-Kahn (widely known as DSK) had an affair with Piroska Nagy, a Hungarian economist, while working at the IMF in 2008…

That wasn’t the only scandal. There was a fuss last year when a young French author, Tristane Banon, described her encounter with him. She explained that she had interviewed him for a book about public figures and their missteps, and claimed she had to fight him off physically…

“Personally, I doubt this side of DSK’s life would have any influence on how he would run the country,” Ms Bounoua claims in an article that makes all the usual excuses for the sexual proclivities of the powerful and is hailed, rather breathlessly, by the Guardian’s Jessica Reed as giving readers “sex, power, politics AND… a new French word: queutard.”

One wonders how Ms Bounoua and the Guardian will react to this new ‘fuss’…

Update: It’s worth remembering that ugly, if unproven, rumours have swirled round Strauss-Kahn for many years. Here’s Felix Salmon – now with Reuters, and one of the best financial journalists around – discussing the Frenchman’s ‘lower half problem’ in 2007 before he took over at the IMF.

Salmon quoted French journalist Chris Masse’s account of a previous Strauss-Kahn ‘fuss’:

A cable TV show (“93 Faubourg Saint Honoré”, on Paris Premiere, hosted by Thierry Ardisson) invited a young (and unknown to me) French actress. I don’t remember her name. She said that she had a bad encounter with Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Here’s what happened. She was asked to come in a little apartment he had in Paris, and then the next thing, Strauss-Kahn jumped on her and tried to undress her and more. She yelled, and told him that that was a rape, but the word “rape” (“viol” in French) didn’t seem to perturb him. She said that he was like “a gorille en rut” (a gorilla in rut).