Strauss-Kahn lawyer eyes plot in downfall

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Disgraced ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyer on Friday suggested that a political plot could have been behind sex assault charges that brought down his client.

Washington attorney William Taylor referred to an upcoming investigative article in the New York Review of Books as evidence that the then powerful French politician may have been derailed, just as he was preparing to run against French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"We cannot now exclude the likelihood that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the target of a deliberate effort to destroy him as a political force," Taylor said in a statement.

The article, an advanced copy of which was provided to AFP, analyzes key card data and other records from the New York Sofitel where Strauss-Kahn was staying when he allegedly sexually assaulted a room maid on May 14.

The article, due to be published on Saturday, notably questions whether a missing BlackBerry phone had been hacked by Strauss-Kahn's political rivals.

It quotes unnamed sources close to Strauss-Kahn saying that he had been warned in a text message the day of his arrest that an email he'd sent to his wife from the BlackBerry had been read at the offices of Sarkozy's UMP party in Paris.

The article also reports that a security camera caught the hotel's head engineer, Brian Yearwood, high-fiving another man and appearing to dance in celebration, near to the maid, as she awaited the arrival of police.

Assault charges were dropped against Strauss-Kahn after prosecutors said that the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, had lied about details of her allegations, although evidence showed that some sort of hurried sexual encounter did occur.

While Strauss-Kahn left the United States a free man, he had to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund, his high-flying political career was in tatters, and he has since faced new allegations of sexual misconduct in France.

Taylor said the article by investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein poses "serious questions concerning behavior of officials" at Sofitel and at its parent Accor Group.

"We call upon both to come forward with a full explanation of the questions Mr Epstein raises," Taylor said.

The hotel's media office did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The New York Review of Books could not be reached for confirmation about the contents of the article.

A lawyer for the maid, who has launched a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn in New York, quickly responded.

"It is beyond preposterous and irresponsible to say that Ms Diallo is part of some governmental conspiracy to set up DSK," Douglas Wigdor said.

© 2011 AFP

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