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Former IMF Chief Faces New Sexual Assault Charge

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss Kahn (file photo)

Former International Monetary Fund leader Dominique Strauss Kahn (file photo)

As France's Christine Lagarde starts her job as the International Monetary Fund's first female boss, her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn faces new sexual assault charges in Paris. Strauss-Kahn plans on filing a countersuit.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's new accuser is very different from the New York hotel maid who has reportedly offered questionable testimony in a sexual assault case against the former International Monetary Fund chief.

Thirty-two-year old Tristane Banon is a French author. Her mother is a prominent member of the French Socialist party and once reportedly close to the Strauss-Kahn family. Banon claims Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her when she interviewed him in 2002.

Banon's lawyer David Koubbi made it clear in interviews on French radio that the French and New York case were completely separate. He said he was not collaborating with the American justice system.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Strauss-Kahn's lawyers said they will file a criminal complaint for slander against Banon should she press charges.

The latest accusation deals a blow to Strauss-Kahn, whose fortunes appeared on the rise amid reports the New York sexual assault case against him was introuble. In France, some members of his opposition Socialist Party, like party chief Martine Aubrey, raised speculation Strauss-Kahn might even run for the French presidency next year, if he is cleared.

Aubrey told French radio that should Strauss-Kahn decide to become a candidate, nobody would force a calendar on him.

Analyst Nicole Bacharan, of the Foundation of Political Sciences in Paris, said there is an outside possibility that the former IMF chief could still return to political life.

"One way would be to look at it as an innocent man who went through a terrible ordeal, who suffered political damage unknown at least in recent history and he could have the aura of some martyr and come back from the dead. Some amazing political story to tell and he could make a comeback," Bacharan said.

But it may be that the French are fed up, and the traditional line here between the public and private lives of elected officials has been erased. Besides the Strauss-Kahn case, two other political scandals have hit the news in recent weeks.

American University of Paris Political Science Professor Steven Ekovic:

"It seems to me this was the scandal that just went too far, and the French are asking themselves now about the behaviour of their politicians and political figures," Ekovich said.

Banon's mother says she now regrets having previously told her daughter to stay silent about Strauss-Kahn's alleged rape attempt. Experts say that any legal process against him in France could take years.