Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, has been formally placed under arrest by French police investigating an alleged prostitution ring.
The 62-year-old socialist politician turned himself in at 8.55am on Tuesday in the northern French city of Lille and is being held for questioning over allegations that he aided the procurement of prostitutes and benefited from fraud.
Detectives want to ascertain whether Strauss-Kahn, a former French presidential hopeful, knew that the women he had sex with at orgies in Paris and Washington were prostitutes and if he was aware how they were paid. It is alleged the money came from the corporate funds of a major French construction company.
Strauss-Kahn is expected to either be put under formal investigation – the equivalent of being charged – or released after 48 hours.
Eight people, including two Lille businessmen with links to Strauss-Kahn and a police commissioner, have already been arrested in the case,known as the Carlton affair after the luxury Lille hotel at the centre of the alleged prostitution ring.
Paying for prostitutes is not illegal in France but procuring them for another and using company funds to pay for them could lead to formal charges.
Strauss-Kahn insists he never knew the women were prostitutes and has denied any wrongdoing.
“He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed, and I challenge you to distinguish a naked prostitute from any other naked woman,” his lawyer, Henri Leclerk, told French radio Europe 1 in December.
Strauss-Kahn’s political hopes disintegrated in May 2011 when he was arrested in New York and accused of sexually assaulting a hotel chambermaid. Strauss-Kahn claimed the sex was consensual and involved no “aggression or constraint”. The case against him crumbled over concerns about the maid’s credibility as a witness.
Last October, prosecutors in France dismissed a 23-year-old French writer’s claim that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her in 2003 during an interview for a book, saying the case had passed the time limit.