IMF chief apologises for affair
Dominique Strauss-Kahn apologises for an affair with an employee and receives mixed reactions back in France.
21 October 2008
WASHINGTON -- IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn apologised to staff on Monday for an affair with an employee that sparked an internal ethics investigation, but the former finance minister won support back home in France.
"Many of you will feel that I have let you down, and I understand those feelings", he wrote in an email to staff seen by AFP that offered apologies to workers, the staff member concerned, and his wife and family.
The probe comes at an important moment for the International Monetary Fund, which is looking to play a leadership role in the struggle against the most severe global financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression.
Strauss-Kahn recently urged for an expanded role of the IMF because of the financial crisis which he said brought the global system "to the brink of systemic meltdown".
The IMF board hired a US law firm to investigate the circumstances of a Hungarian-born economist, Piroska Nagy, leaving the organization earlier in 2008.
Nagy had an extramarital affair with Strauss-Kahn, her boss and a former minister under French Socialist governments, but denies that she received a more generous severance package than others of equivalent
A source in Strauss-Kahn's office told AFP that the firm, which is due to publish its report later in October, would limit the investigation to the details of her departure, and not address her previous private links to the director.
"It is perfectly legitimate on the part of the IMF to inquire into this, once the rumor comes to them", he said.
In his email, Strauss-Kahn said he expected to be cleared by the inquiry but added that he wanted to repeat what he had told the directors of the IMF in a meeting on Monday.
"First, I apologized and said that I very much regret this incident", he said.
"Second, while this incident constituted an error of judgment on my part, for which I take full responsibility, I firmly believe that I have not abused my position", he said.
A statement from the head of the IMF's executive board, Shakour Shaalan, confirmed a meeting with Strauss-Kahn on Monday.
"He and directors agreed that it is in the best interests of the Fund and its 185-member countries for this inquiry to be thorough, independent and completed expeditiously", said the statement.
On Saturday, following disclosure in The Wall Street Journal, the IMF confirmed it hired outside lawyers to investigate accusations about 59-year-old Strauss-Kahn.
France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner defended Strauss-Kahn's ability to lead the IMF and accused unnamed political forces of conspiring to push the scandal into the media spotlight.
"The timing is bad", Kouchner told France 2 television. "I also have to ask myself why this comes now, at a moment when we need Dominique Strauss-Kahn. I think there's been some mischief".
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said he had no comment on the affair "which seems to me totally private. The inquiries under way will shed light" on the matter, he added.
A former Socialist prime minister, Michel Rocard, said he would "completely exclude" the allegation that the director abused his position.
If allegations that Strauss-Kahn misused his authority prove incorrect, Rocard argued, the sex claim would be irrelevant as "no one is trying to impose Islamic or Sharia-esque morals on public officials working at the IMF".
Nagy held a senior post in the IMF's Africa department until she resigned in August when the fund cut about 600 positions.
Strauss-Kahn's wife, French television journalist Anne Sinclair, wrote on her blog that she forgave her husband for a "one-night stand" and thanked friends and acquaintances for their messages of support.
The French press was more critical.
"While the world of finance is going through such a serious crisis, the International Monetary Fund didn't need this", stated the right-wing Le Figaro.
Commentators recalled that Strauss-Kahn's World Bank counterpart, Paul Wolfowitz, was forced to step down in 2007 after being accused of showing favoritism to his girlfriend, an employee.
[AFP / Expatica]