A French court will rule Friday on whether ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is guilty of pimping charges after a trial which exposed lurid details of champagne-fuelled orgies and prostitution.
However the 66-year-old, who has been dogged by sexual scandals, looked likely to again avoid conviction as even the prosecutor in the case has called for him to be acquitted, saying there was insufficient proof he had been at the heart of a prostitution ring.
The silver-haired economist saw his high-flying career at the head of the International Monetary Fund and presidential prospects implode when a New York Hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011.
Those criminal charges were dropped and the case settled in a civil suit, but the scandal brought to light several complaints about Strauss-Kahn’s behaviour towards women.
Shortly afterwards he was accused of procuring prostitutes to attend orgies in Brussels, Paris and Washington at which witnesses for the prosecution said he was the “king of the party”.
At his trial in February, the former head of the International Monetary Fund calmly fended off the accusations, saying that while he was a libertine who enjoyed group sex, he was unaware any of the woman attending the soirees had been paid to be there.
However he lost his temper as lawyers pushed the former prostitutes to recount brutal scenes in which he sodomised them, allegedly without their permission, saying he was not on trial for “deviant practices”.
In closing arguments his lawyers said the case against him had “collapsed” into nothing more than an indictment of Strauss-Kahn’s morals, and the prosecution appeared to agree.
Main prosecutor Frederic Fevre called for Strauss-Kahn to be acquitted saying that “neither the judicial enquiry nor the hearing have established that Mr Strauss-Kahn is guilty”.
In another boost for Strauss-Kahn, two ex-prostitutes who attended the orgies dropped a civil lawsuit against him, with lawyers saying they lacked enough proof to win the case.
– ‘Ego, ambition and desires’ –
The trial was the latest humiliation for the man once seen as a frontrunner for France’s 2012 presidential election.
He was charged with pimping shortly after the New York scandal when his name cropped up in a probe into a prostitution ring in northern France, which provided sex workers for orgies he attended.
Strauss-Kahn found himself in the dock alongside a colourful cast of 13 characters including a senior police officer and brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld, known as “Dodo the Pimp”.
Dodo admits providing prostitutes to friends of Strauss-Kahn, who are among the accused and testified to keeping the women’s true nature a secret as they sought to impress the “future president of the republic”.
While prostitution in itself is legal in France, encouraging and organising its practice is considered to be procuring and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Fevre asked for a series of suspended sentences and fines ranging from 2,500 ($2,800) to 20,000 euros for the 13 other accused.
“This was not a mafia network that was dismantled,” said Fevre, but a group of friends trying to “satisfy egos, ambitions and quite simply, physical desires.”
– ‘Busy saving the world’ –
Former prostitutes — nicknamed Jade and Mounia — gave dramatic testimony during the trial of how they felt powerless to say no to Strauss-Kahn sodomising them during sex parties.
They said Strauss-Kahn would have been “naive” to not realise they were paid to attend.
Strauss-Kahn lost his patience as lawyers pressed the women on his sexual preferences, seeking to prove a level of sexual degradation that he would only expect from a prostitute.
“I must have a sexuality which, compared to average men, is more rough. Women have the right not to like that whether they are prostitutes or not,” he said.
The court tried to prove that Strauss-Kahn had played a role in organising for the prostitutes to attend the sex parties, in text messages in which he referred to women as “equipment”.
But Strauss-Kahn brushed these comments off as “barracks talk”.
He said the use of prostitutes “horrified” him and that paying for sex would be too great a risk for a man at the head of the IMF, which was busy “saving the world” from the financial crisis that began in 2008.