Strauss-Kahn: from high finance to ankle bracelet

20th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's high-flying career in politics and world finance took him to the peak of success with a real shot at becoming the next president of France.

But a very different image of the veteran French politician has emerged in past days -- handcuffed, unshaven and disheveled as he was paraded before the world's cameras sharing court time with petty criminals.

The humiliating images of the once jet-setting economist, who had his fingers on the pulse of the world's economy, have sent ripples around the globe.

His sudden fall from grace was compounded when a judge Thursday granted him bail on condition he wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and submit to round-the-clock confinement under armed guard in a New York apartment.

Now stripped of his powerful position after resigning as head of the International Monetary Fund, Strauss-Kahn, 62, has vowed to fight charges of sexually assaulting a chambermaid, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment.

"It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation," he said in his letter to the IMF released Thursday just hours before he was back in court for his bail hearing.

"I think at this time first of my wife -- whom I love more than anything -- of my children, of my family, of my friends," he added.

"I think also of my colleagues at the Fund; together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more.

"To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me."

It is a stunning reversal for the gifted economist who has jetted around the world as a key figure in handling the 2008 financial crisis, although he has long been subject to claims of dalliances with women.

Strauss-Kahn is married to Anne Sinclair, one of France's most popular television journalists, who was in court Thursday along with his daughter, Camille. Although red-eyed, Sinclair remained calm, occasionally dabbing the tears from Camille's cheeks.

Strauss-Kahn had been widely expected to stand in the 2012 French presidential elections after a failed bid for the Socialist candidacy in 2006, and he was already leading in the polls despite not having officially thrown his hat into the ring.

Claims about his private life had always lurked in the background until his arrest late Saturday sparked a public sleaze scandal that has all but destroyed his hopes for the presidency.

A gifted orator, fluent in English and German, the silver-haired Strauss-Kahn was a former economics professor who won respect in Europe as France's finance minister from 1997 to 1999.

During that time, he took part in negotiations on the creation of the single European currency, the euro, and generated a wave of privatizations, including that of France Telecom, overcoming resistance within socialist ranks.

He had presented himself as the reform candidate for the 187-country International Monetary Fund (IMF), based in Washington, when he took the helm of the global lender in 2007, promising to be "a consensus builder."

But the Frenchman's candidacy had stirred controversy in Europe, and he has had several run-ins with scandal.

In 2008 he was discovered to be having an affair with an Hungarian IMF economist. The affair was investigated by the IMF, which concluded he had not exerted pressure on the woman, but said he had made an error of judgment.

Born to a Jewish family in the rich Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine on April 25, 1949, Strauss-Kahn spent part of his childhood in Morocco and later studied at the elite Paris political school Sciences-Po and the top business school HEC.

He entered politics in 1986, winning a parliament seat to represent the alpine Haute-Savoie region, and was later re-elected in the Paris region of Val d'Oise in 1988.

Named finance minister in 1997, Strauss-Kahn was forced to step down two years later because of allegations that he had received payment from a student health insurance fund for legal work he did not perform.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2001.

© 2011 AFP

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