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Ex-IMF chief Strauss-Kahn returns home to France

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned home to France on Sunday for the first time since a New York hotel maid accused him of attempted rape.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned home to France on Sunday for the first time since a New York hotel maid accused him of attempted rape, unleashing an international scandal that dashed his chances for the French presidency.

New York prosecutors later dropped their case against Strauss-Kahn because of questions about the maid's credibility.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, had been the pollsters' favorite to win next year's presidential elections in France before his May arrest. Few expect him to return to French politics soon, but his supporters have been eagerly awaiting his return after three months of legal drama in the U.S.

Strauss-Kahn emerged from an Air France flight from New York's JFK Airport early Sunday and gave a brief wave. He did not speak to the large crowd, primarily of reporters, gathered at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport.

His wife, Anne Sinclair, was at his side, beaming widely. Riot police protected him and the area.

The last time he tried to take an Air France flight out of JFK, Strauss-Kahn was pulled out of first class minutes before takeoff by police investigating the maid's claim that hours earlier, Strauss-Kahn had forced her to perform oral sex and tried to rape her.

He quit his job, spent almost a week in jail, then six weeks of house arrest and nearly two more months barred from leaving the country before Manhattan prosecutors dropped the case last month, saying they no longer trusted the maid, Guinean immigrant Nafissatou Diallo.

Diallo is continuing to press her claims in a lawsuit. Strauss-Kahn denies the allegations.

The Associated Press does not name people who report being sexually assaulted unless they agree to be identified or come forward publicly, as Diallo has done.

Strauss-Kahn also will have to contend with a sexual assault allegation that surfaced in France after his New York arrest. Authorities are investigating novelist Tristane Banon's complaint that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her while she was interviewing him in 2002 — an incident her mother, a regional Socialist official, has said she discouraged her from reporting at the time but is now encouraging her to pursue.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers have called Banon's account "imaginary."

Strauss-Kahn has been free to travel internationally since his passport was returned late last week. He'd told reporters he was eager to return to France, but he first took a trip to Washington, D.C., on Monday to bid farewell to former IMF colleagues at the lending agency's headquarters. He had resigned days after his arrest.

He returned Thursday to the $50,000-a-month Manhattan town home he had rented for his house arrest.

"This is a man who has suffered. It is a man who will obviously take some time to get his bearings," his biographer, Michel Taubmann, told The Associated Press last week.

Civil case
Strauss-Kahn still faces Diallo's lawsuit in New York, though it's unclear when he might have to return for the civil case. Lawsuits can take years to play out, and defendants aren't required to come to court dates, as they generally are in criminal cases. She's seeking unspecified damages.

Diallo, 33, says Strauss-Kahn chased her down in his suite and attacked her after she arrived to clean it. Prosecutors said DNA evidence shows they had a sexual encounter; his lawyers say it was consensual.

After initially portraying Diallo as a compelling witness, prosecutors developed doubts about her credibility. She had told them a concocted tale of having been gang-raped in the past, among other falsehoods about her background, and they said she gave varying versions of her actions immediately after her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.

"We simply no longer have confidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty," prosecutors wrote in a court filing last week.

Diallo has said she's telling the truth about being attacked. One of her lawyers, Douglas Wigdor, has said prosecutors' decision to abandon the criminal case "is an affront to Ms. Diallo and to all victims who come forward in the future."