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IMF boss charged with sex assault

NEW YORK, May 15 – IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, widely expected to run for the French presidency next year, was charged Sunday with the sexual assault and attempted rape of a chambermaid at a New York hotel, police said.

The charges included "criminal sexual act, unlawful emprisonment, attempted rape" and "assaulting a 32-year-old girl in a hotel room," Ryan Sesa, a police deputy spokesman, told reporters.

Strauss-Kahn, a 62-year-old Socialist who had been leading French opinion polls for the 2012 elections, was escorted off an Air France flight Saturday just minutes before it was to leave John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said.

"We took him into custody and we handed him over to the New York City police department," an official for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Authorities were investigating an alleged attack on a maid at the Sofitel New York hotel earlier in the day, police said.

A maid in the hotel alleged she had been assaulted by the IMF chief when he got out of his shower naked.

According to an account published by local media, the maid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite believing it was unoccupied.

As she worked in the foyer, he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her, according to The New York Times.

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According to the maid\’s account, the IMF chief grabbed her, pulled her into the bedroom and onto the bed and then locked the door.

She managed to fight him off, but he dragged her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaulted her a second time.

MSNBC television reported that in the bathroom, Strauss-Kahn forced the maid to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear.

At some point during the assault, the woman broke free and fled, reporting the incident to other hotel personnel and calling the 911 police emergency line.

According to police sources, Strauss-Kahn left the hotel room in a hurry leaving behind his mobile phone and personal effects.

Strauss-Kahn, a well-known figure on the French political scene popularly known by his initials DSK, has not officially thrown his hat into the ring to challenge center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year\’s presidential race.

But the former French finance minister had been widely expected to stand, and polls out earlier Sunday before news of his arrest broke had put him narrowly ahead of the pack if he ran with 26 percent of the vote.

In Washington, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The Port Authority official said Strauss-Kahn, who has headed up the IMF since 2007, was removed from the flight 10 minutes before departure, at 4:45 pm (16:45 GMT).

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It was unclear when Strauss-Kahn bought the plane ticket, but he had been due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Sunday to discuss an aid package for debt-laden Greece.

He was then due to attend a meeting of EU finance ministers on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels.

It is not the first time that the silver-haired political veteran, who is married to a high-profile journalist, has been tainted by 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 noted his inappropriate behavior.

John Sheehan, director of security at Sofitel New York, told AFP by phone that they are cooperating with the probe.

"The Sofitel is working very closely with the NYPD with their investigation," Sheehan said. "The safety and security of our clients and team members are of the utmost priority to us."

Strauss-Kahn\’s stint at the helm of the IMF in Washington does not officially end until September 2012, several months after the scheduled date of France\’s vote.

But the French political world has been buzzing with speculation that he would end his tenure early to stand as the Socialist Party\’s candidate.

Sarkozy\’s party has launched virulent attacks against the IMF boss denouncing him as a rich "champagne socialist," and arguing he has been away too long to still be in touch with France.

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Strauss-Kahn became head of the International Monetary Fund in November 2007, pledging to push reforms of the 187-member country institution that helps oversee the global economy.

The first-round of the elections will be held on April 22 next year with the second round run-off on May 6, 2012.


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