Attention shifts to Strauss-Kahn's accuser

4th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Attention in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sex case has shifted to the accuser, a New York hotel maid who now faces mounting credibility problems, as the ex-IMF chief enjoyed freedom from strict bail conditions.

The former French politician remained Sunday in his rented townhouse in Lower Manhattan, but his wife, Anne Sinclair, left the residence in the afternoon and smiled at reporters before departing in a black sedan.

Unlike previous occasions, there were no bodyguards, and a New York police cruiser that had been parked there for weeks had vanished.

As prosecutors scrambled to salvage some sort of case against the once high-flying head of the world's top lender, Strauss-Kahn's defense team denied a New York tabloid's allegations he engaged in sex for money with the hotel maid.

"There was no dispute between the parties because there was no discussion about money," the team, led by lawyers Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor, said in a statement.

The New York Post reported Sunday that Strauss-Kahn and his accuser, a 32-year-old immigrant from Guinea, engaged in sex acts in his luxury suite, and that afterwards there "was an expectation of money after the fact, but he was dismissive."

The Post, quoting a source close to the defense's investigation team, has also said the maid often traded sex for money with male guests at the Sofitel hotel.

While the charges against the 62-year-old stand, the case has nearly imploded after prosecutors acknowledged their investigations of the accuser found she lied to a grand jury about the case.

In a letter to defense lawyers, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said the woman had provided a "false" narrative of her life -- including a gang rape which she later admitted never occurred -- as part of her application process for US asylum.

Among other details gleaned about the maid were her possible links to criminal activities, including drug dealing and money laundering, a law enforcement official told The New York Times.

Within a day of the alleged rape attempt, the maid was recorded speaking on the phone with a boyfriend jailed for possessing 400 pounds (180 kilograms) of marijuana and discussing the benefits of pursuing charges, according to the newspaper.

When the conversation was translated from Fulani, the maid's native language, investigators became concerned.

"She says words to the effect of, 'Don't worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I'm doing,'" the Times quoted one of the officials as saying.

The paper said the man was one of several individuals who made multiple cash deposits totaling around $100,000 into the woman's bank account over the last two years.

Strauss-Kahn's release from house arrest has raised hopes among Strauss-Kahn's supporters that the case will collapse and the Socialist party favorite will return to frontline politics, possibly even as a candidate to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 elections.

Fellow socialist Segolene Royal, a candidate in the presidential vote, said she had no problem delaying the process to make room for him.

The current deadline for declaring in the Socialist Party primary is July 13.

US authorities still hold his passport pending possible trial, meaning that Strauss-Kahn cannot travel outside the United States, though his $1 million bail and $5 million bond will now be returned.

Despite the maid's shattered credibility, Vance vowed to continue the investigations until prosecutors had uncovered all the facts and noted that charges had not been dropped.

Legal analysts, however, said the case was likely dead.

According to the accuser's initial grand jury testimony, she fled Strauss-Kahn's luxury hotel suite immediately after the May 14 attack and waited in the hallway before informing a supervisor.

But, prosecutors revealed, the woman subsequently changed her story, admitting she actually cleaned another room and even returned to start cleaning Strauss-Kahn's suite before alerting her bosses.

According to the prosecutors, the woman also lied on her asylum application when she entered the United States in 2004 and defrauded US tax authorities by listing a non-existent second child as her dependent.

The maid's lawyer Kenneth Thompson admitted his client had made "some mistakes," but insisted forensic evidence would prove Strauss-Kahn was guilty of a brutal sexual assault.

Given the accuser's background, New York authorities now reportedly regret their hasty arrest of Strauss-Kahn in May when he was taken off a plane at JFK International Airport and hauled into a police station.

"I guess, in a perfect world, they would not have had to arrest him right away," The New York Times quotes an unnamed law enforcement official as saying. "They could have checked the evidence and everything."


© 2011 AFP

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