The former head of the International Monetary Fund, once considered a near shoo-in as France’s president, went on trial in Lille to face charges of aggravated pimping and involvement in a prostitution ring operating out of luxury hotels.
Strauss-Kahn, 65, arrived in a black sedan with tinted windows and drove into an underground parking lot, while other defendants entered the courthouse through a crowd of reporters and cameras, accompanied by their lawyers and watched over by a heavy police and military presence.
The French economist known widely as DSK faces up to 10 years in prison and a €1.5m fine, as he and more than a dozen other French and Belgian businessmen and police officers go on trial.
The trial is scheduled to last three weeks, with Strauss-Kahn not expected to testify until February 10.
He appeared nervous while presiding judge Bernard Lemaire read out the charges against him and his 13 co-accused, including luxury hotel managers, a lawyer, former police commissioner, and brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld, who is nicknamed ‘Dodo the Pimp’.
Investigators have compiled hundreds of pages of testimony from prostitutes describing the orgies allegedly organised by Strauss-Kahn and his co-defendants, centred on the Carlton Hotel in Lille, near the Belgian border. Strauss-Kahn says he took part in “libertine” activities but insists he never knew the women involved were prostitutes.
It is not illegal to pay for sex in France, but it is against the law to solicit or to run a prostitution business.
“You are accused of aiding and abetting the prostitution of seven persons between March 29, 2008 and October 4, 2011, and of hiring and encouraging the prostitution of these same persons,” Lemaire told Strauss-Kahn.
Hundreds of reporters are covering the trial, making it one of the highest-profile cases in France in years.
In 2011, Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting Guinean-born maid Nafissatou Diallo in New York, accusations that ended his high-flying finance career.
As head of the Washington-based IMF between 2007 and 2011, Strauss-Kahn had been tipped to become the French Socialist party’s presidential candidate for the 2012 election.