Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, has been cleared by a French court of “aggravated pimping” charges.
The one-time French presidential hopeful, who has described seeking “recreation” from the stress of world politics by having rough sex with strangers at orgies in Europe and the US, was found not to have promoted or profited from the prostitution of seven women.
The judges said there was no proof he knew that some of the women he had sex with at orgies were prostitutes. Throughout his trial, he maintained that he had not known that some of the partners brought to him by business friends at group-sex sessions had been paid, saying he thought they were merely “swingers” like himself. The businessmen told the women who had sex with Strauss-Kahn not to say they had been paid.
The wide-reaching trial in the northern French city of Lille revealed a saga of money, fame and women travelling to luxury locations for sex with powerful men against a backdrop of economic deprivation and social misery.
Known as the Carlton affair, the case began in 2011 as an investigation into an alleged prostitution network at Lille’s Hotel Carlton, where women – described by the men that ran them as “livestock” or “dossiers” – had been offered up as the “dessert course” at business lunches. Strauss-Kahn was never involved in any alleged activity at the hotel, but when his name was mentioned by sex-workers in interviews with investigators, the inquiry was widened.
Thirteen other men appeared in court on pimping charges, many with no connection to Strauss-Kahn, but the high-profile coverage of the case centred on the former IMF chief and how he sought “recreation” from managing the fallout from the global financial crisis by having sex with strangers brought to him at orgies by businessmen keen to curry favour.
The trial exposed not only Strauss Kahn’s secret double-life, but the harrowing accounts of some of the women with whom he had sex also revealed the economic deprivation they had suffered
Between 2009 and 2011, the years covered by the trial, Strauss-Kahn held the most senior economic job in the world in Washington, and was convinced he would become the next Socialist president of France. He invited TV crews to document his cosy and high-profile marriage to Anne Sinclair, an influential French journalist and feminist, who has since divorced him.
During his working day, however, he would send text messages asking a businessman friend to join him at a “magnificent” swingers’ club in Madrid and bring him some “equipment”, a term he admitted meant women. While in Brussels for IMF meetings he would be driven to the countryside at night for group sex with strangers on mattresses on the floor of a swingers’ club. Throughout the trial, he said he never knew or suspected that there were any prostitutes among the many women brought to him at the sessions.
The trial was marked by the tearful accounts of two destitute and vulnerable prostitutes who were among the women ferried to locations in Paris, Brussels and Washington to have sex with Strauss-Kahn. They likened the orgies to “slaughter”, “killing” and “butchery”. The former IMF chief told the trial that he had regrettably discovered during the court hearings that he had “a sexuality that was rougher than the average man” but that he believed “no means no”.
Mounia, a Lille sex worker whom court papers described as having been sexually abused as a child, broke down in tears as she told the court how, at an orgy in Paris, Strauss-Kahan had subjected her to anal penetration against her wishes. She said that when he saw she was crying and in pain he smiled and went ahead anyway “with force”.
Asked by the judge whether he had noticed her crying, Strauss-Kahn said: “No, I would have found it chilling.” He said he did not have a precise memory of the woman, but that he had had no sense of refusal. “When someone says no, it’s no,” he said.
Another prostitute, Jade, who was also sexually abused as a child, described the atmosphere at one Paris hotel orgy. She said of Strauss-Kahn: “No one asked me my name, there was just a hand on my head to fellate him.” She later broke down in tears as she told the court how on a different occasion Strauss-Kahn had also subjected her to anal penetration against her wishes. “I didn’t have time to say no,” she said.
Strauss-Kahn told the court he did not view his sexual encounter with Jade in the same way that she did. “I didn’t realise,” he said. “I’m not for doing things that are disagreeable for partners.
“I had no way of knowing she didn’t want it … It wasn’t my intention, I’m sorry it happened like that.”
Throughout the trial, Strauss-Kahn maintained the suggestion that he had to be brought “fresh meat” by businessmen friends was a “disgrace”. He insisted he never had sex with prostitutes because “I prefer a party atmosphere before, during and after”. As he told one sexual partner: “I have a horror of whores.”
Strauss-Kahn had told the court that group-sex sessions were rare “recreation” in his hectic schedule as IMF chief, taking place only four times a year because he had been very busy “saving the world from catastrophe” at the time of the US sub-prime crisis.
The two entrepreneurs from northern France who flew women to the US for orgies involving Strauss-Kahn ended their last visit on 13 May 2011, the day before he was arrested in New York over the alleged attempted rape of a hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo.
Criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn in the Diallo case were dropped by prosecutors in New York, and he later settled a civil action with her out of court. The case marked the end of his political career in France, where he is now seen as a pariah, and his acquittal on pimping charges in the Carlton case is not expected to change that view.
Fabrice Paszkowski, 47, a small businessman from Lens who was a close friend of Strauss-Kahn and paid women to attend orgies with him, was also cleared on pimping charges, as was David Roquet, 46, the former head of a local franchise of a building company in northern France, who also attended the Strauss-Kahn orgies. Jean-Christophe Lagarde, 50, a Lille police chief who attended the orgies and was said to have been hoping for a top national post if Strauss-Kahn were elected president, was also cleared of pimping charges.
The judge said the soirées organised in Washington were outside French jurisdiction.
Dominique Alderweireld, 65, also known as Dodo la Saumure or Dodo the Pimp, who runs brothels just over the border in Belgium, was acquitted of sending prostitutes from his establishments to Paris and the US for Strauss-Kahn.
René Kojfer, 73, the sharp-suited former head of public relations at the Hotel Carlton in Lille, was given a one-year suspended sentence for pimping – charges that had no connection to Strauss-Kahn.