PARIS, May 15 – 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 the glitter turned to sleaze on Sunday, with the 62-year-old in detention in New York charged with the alleged sexual assault and attempted rape of a hotel maid.
His lawyers however said he planned to deny everything and would plead not guilty.
But it was a humiliating turn for the economist who has jetted around the world as a key figure in handling the 2008 financial crisis, though he has long been subject to claims of dalliances with women.
The 62-year-old was widely expected to stand in the 2012 French presidential elections after a failed bid for the Socialist candidacy in 2006, and though he had not announced his run officially, he was already leading in the polls.
Sniping by political rivals was in full swing, with opponents sneering at his jet-set lifestyle. Some had even tacitly evoked his Jewish origins, in an election race that looked likely to get dirtier and dirtier.
Claims about his private life lurked in the background until his arrest late Saturday sparked a public sleaze scandal that pundits and politicians on both left and right said 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 privatisations, 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.
Strauss-Kahn is married to Anne Sinclair, one of France\’s most popular television journalists.