NEW YORK (AP) — The leader of the International Monetary Fund and a possible candidate for president of France was pulled from an airplane moments before he was to fly to Paris and was being questioned Saturday by police in connection with the sexual assault of a hotel maid, police said.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn was taken off the Air France flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport by officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and turned over to police Saturday afternoon, said Paul J. Browne, New York Police Department spokesman.
He was being questioned by the NYPD special victims office. No charges have yet been filed.
The 32-year-old woman told authorities that she entered Strauss-Kahn’s room at the Sofitel near Manhattan’s Times Square at about 1 p.m. Saturday and he emerged from the bedroom naked, threw her down and tried to sexually assault her, Browne said. She somehow broke free and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened, authorities said. They called police.
When New York City police detectives arrived moments later, Strauss-Kahn had already left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone and other personal items, Browne said. “It looked like he got out of there in a hurry,” Browne said.
The NYPD discovered he was at the airport and contacted the Port Authority, who plucked Kahn from first class on the Air France flight that had not yet departed.
The maid was taken by police to an area hospital. John Sheehan, a spokesman for the hotel, said its staff was cooperating with the authorities in the investigation.
William Murray, a spokesman for the IMF in Washington, said the IMF had no immediate comment on the reports of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. Strauss-Kahn’s offices in Paris couldn’t be reached when the news broke overnight in France, nor could French Socialist Party officials.
Strauss-Kahn was briefly investigated in 2008 over whether he had an improper relationship with a subordinate female employee. The IMF board found his actions “regrettable” and said they “reflected a serious error of judgment.” The board found that the relationship was consensual.
The 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn, rejected by the French Socialists as their presidential candidate in 2006, gained international recognition as France’s finance minister in 1997-99.
Strauss-Kahn is not a formally declared candidate for the French presidency but has topped polls for months as potential presidential contender. The arrest comes as a grave blow to what were widely believed to be his ambitions to run against French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.
Strauss-Kahn was meant to be meeting in Berlin on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about aid to debt-laden Greece, and then join EU finance ministers in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. The IMF is responsible for one-third of Greece’s existing loan package, and his expected presence at these meetings underlined the gravity of the Greek crisis.
The incident comes amid French media reports about Strauss-Kahn’s lifestyle, including luxury cars and suits, that some have dubbed a smear campaign.
He is credited with preparing France for the adoption of the euro by taming its deficit and persuading then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to sign up to an EU pact of fiscal prudence.
A former economics professor, Strauss-Kahn joined the Socialist party in 1976 and was elected to parliament in 1986 from the Val-d’Oise district, north of Paris. He went on to become mayor of Sarcelles, a working-class immigrant suburb of Paris.
His first government post was industry minister under former President Francois Mitterrand. As finance minister, he reduced France’s debt repayments through a raft of privatizations including the sale of shares in France Telecom SA and Air France.
Strauss-Kahn is a married father of four. His third wife, Anne Sinclair, is a New York-born journalist who hosted a popular weekly news broadcast in France in the 1980s.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)