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Prosecutor launches new Strauss-Kahn rape probe

- Associated Press - Monday, May 21, 2012

PARIS — A French prosecutor on Monday opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of rape in a Washington hotel by former IMF chief and onetime French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The move by the prosecutor in Lille in northern France followed a request by investigating judges earlier this month to broaden a suspected prostitution probe to examine the claims of rape in December 2010.

The prosecutor's office said in a statement that they are looking into the allegation that Mr. Strauss-Kahn may have been involved in a rape during a sex party in the hotel while he was head of the International Monetary Fund.

The married Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 63, says whatever happened was consensual, and has denied doing anything violent. The prominent economist, once a top contender for France's presidency, has seen his career and reputation crumble since he was accused of sexual assault in a New York hotel a year ago.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn is already a target in the Lille prostitution probe, which has mushroomed over the past year into a nationwide scandal. He is facing preliminary charges of alleged aggravated pimping, based on accusations by other people questioned in the investigation.

He denies those charges. He has acknowledged being involved in "libertine" activity, while saying that he was unaware of anyone being paid for sex.

French daily Liberation reported this month that two Belgian prostitutes questioned in the Lille probe described Mr. Strauss-Kahn as using violence during sex at the W Hotel in Washington and one of the prostitutes said he forced a sexual act on her despite her protests.

Citing leaked transcripts of witness testimony to Belgian police, also involved in the probe, Liberation cited one of the prostitutes as saying that Mr. Strauss-Kahn "used force, he held down my hands, he pulled my hair, he hurt me." The woman is quoted as testifying that another man held her hands down while Mr. Strauss-Kahn assaulted her.

Neither of the prostitutes has filed legal complaints, but French rules allow for an investigation even without a formal complaint.

The Lille probe focuses on a suspected prostitution ring involving prominent city figures and police. Prostitutes questioned in the case said they had sex with Mr. Strauss-Kahn in 2010 and 2011 at a luxury hotel in Paris, a restaurant in the French capital and also in Washington, D.C., where he lived while working at the Washington-based IMF, judicial officials say.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn also is facing a trial in New York over a lawsuit by a hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault in May 2011. A judge ruled this week that the trial can go forward despite Mr. Strauss-Kahn's claim that he had diplomatic immunity.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn has countersued, filing a $1 million lawsuit against the New York City hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo, saying she seriously damaged his reputation with what he calls a bogus allegation.

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