French court acquits Strauss-Kahn of pimping charges
A French court acquitted former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of pimping charges Friday, drawing a line under four years of legal woes over his sexual escapades that torpedoed his career.
The 66-year-old economist merely nodded his head to acknowledge the verdict, the finale of a colourful trial which dragged intimate details of his sex life into the public eye.
One of Strauss-Kahn's lawyers, Richard Malka, said the case had collapsed "like a house of cards" after even the prosecutor called for him to be let off due to lack of evidence that he had organised or profited from prostitution.
Chief judge Bernard Lemaire ruled that Strauss-Kahn was not the "instigator" of orgies attended by prostitutes but merely the "beneficiary of group sex".
The trial was the latest in a long series of high-profile corruption and sexual scandals that have landed Strauss-Kahn in the dock in the past 16 years, only to fizzle out.
Most recently, Strauss-Kahn saw his high-flying career at the head of the International Monetary Fund -- and his French presidential prospects -- implode when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011.
Not long after those criminal charges were dropped and the case settled in a civil suit, his name cropped up in a probe into an alleged prostitution ring in northern France, which provided sex workers for orgies he attended.
In France, while prostitution is legal, procuring and benefiting from it is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
- 'Rough' sexuality on trial -
The courtroom in the northern city of Lille heard lurid details of champagne-fuelled orgies attended by Strauss-Kahn, as his lawyers accused the court of putting his morals, and prostitution itself, on trial.
Strauss-Kahn said that while he was a libertine who enjoyed group sex, he was unaware any of the women attending soirees in Paris, Brussels and Washington, had been paid to be there.
Judge Lemaire said there had been several inconsistencies in the testimony of former prostitutes who attended the parties and gave dramatic accounts of nights of "carnage".
They said Strauss-Kahn would have been "naive" to be unaware of their role and recounted brutal scenes of sodomy, angering the accused who said he was not on trial for "deviant practices".
"I must have a sexuality which, compared to average men, is more rough. Women have the right not to like that, whether they are prostitutes or not," he said.
He said the use of prostitutes "horrified" him and that paying for sex would be too great a risk for a man at the head of the IMF, which was busy "saving the world" from the financial crisis that began in 2008.
- 'Private life on show' -
The verdict comes after prosecutor Frederic Fevre called for Strauss-Kahn to be acquitted, saying that "neither the judicial enquiry nor the hearing have established that Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty."
The two ex-prostitutes who testified dropped a civil lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn, with their lawyers conceding they lacked enough proof to win the case.
"We put a man's private life on show, with no respect for him, with no dignity, with no usefulness, and that is what this verdict means," lawyer Malka said.
Strauss-Kahn was in the dock alongside a colourful cast of 13 characters -- including hoteliers and police officers -- accused of taking part in a prostitution ring.
Twelve were acquitted over the presence of prostitutes at lunchtime sex parties held at the upmarket Carlton hotel in Lille, with the court ruling they were merely "clients".
"I'm very happy. I was expecting a prison sentence," said brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld, known as "Dodo the Pimp", the only person for whom the prosecution had sought jail time.
The only conviction -- a one-year suspended sentence -- for pimping was handed down to Rene Kojfer, the former public relations manager of the Carlton who organised for prostitutes working with Alderweireld to attend the orgies.
Strauss-Kahn's case overlapped with that known as the "Carlton affair" as he was friends with some of the other accused, who admitted bringing prostitutes to sex parties to curry favour with him.
- History of legal woes -
It is unclear what the acquittal means for Strauss-Kahn, a former star in the Socialist party, but a poll before the trial showed 56 percent of French people questioned had no desire to see him return to politics and saw him as immoral and a misogynist.
However 79 percent of people questioned thought Strauss-Kahn would have been a better president than the deeply unpopular Francois Hollande.
In 1999 Strauss-Kahn stepped down as finance minister after corruption allegations, and he was also implicated in a financial scandal related to former state oil company Elf Aquitaine.
A year later he was investigated for giving tax breaks to fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld.
© 2015 AFP