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By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) often invoked its sovereign immunity to rape Russia’s governing institutions, including the Central Bank and the Supreme Soviet, in the years of collapse following the end of the Soviet Union. Michel Camdessus, a Frenchman, was the culprit then, instructed by the principal shareholders on the Fund board. It might even be said in exculpation of Camdessus that he was just following orders issued in the finale of the Cold War.

In the case of the current IMF managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, another Frenchman – a case which unfolded in the middle of the New York day on Saturday — the IMF board has yet to decide whether the man may be covered by immunity from facing trial on charges of a criminal sex act, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment. These charges have been announced by the New York Police Department and amplified by the US and French press. But immunity is as much a political decision as it’s one of individual human rights, privacy, sexuality, or criminality.

All the IMF has so far been able to do since Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, incarceration and indictment on Saturday evening has been to run up their white flag:

Statement on IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Press Release No. 11/179
May 15, 2011
Ms. Caroline Atkinson, Director of External Relations at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued the following statement today:
“IMF Managing Director Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York City. Mr. Strauss-Kahn has retained legal counsel, and the IMF has no comment on the case; all inquiries will be referred to his personal lawyer and to the local authorities.
“The IMF remains fully functioning and operational.”

The IMF board decision on Strauss-Kahn’s immunity depends in part on what the US, which controls 16.8% of the votes of the Fund, and France, with 4.3%, think of Strauss-Kahn as a contender for the presidency of France at next year’s election. The other big voters at the board meeting are Japan (6.25%), Germany (5.8%), and the UK with 4.3%.

Russia during the presidency of Vladimir Putin made public declarations that it had no use or time for the IMF under Camdessus, or his successor Horst Kohler.

As prime minister, Putin dealt with Strauss-Kahn two years ago when Putin’s idea was to invest up to $10 billion in IMF bonds. Putin’s condition was that Strauss-Kahn would oblige the Ukrainian government of Yulia Timoshenko to meet its payment obligations for Gazprom gas. Nothing came of the idea. Right now, with 2.4% of the Fund votes, Russia’s position towards Strauss-Kahn is too small to make a difference.

There are issues of fact, too, because Strauss-Kahn’s suite at the Sofitel Hotel at 45 West 44th Street reportedly included a meeting-room. And if he had used it for business, then he may warrant immunity for whatever happened in the adjoining rooms.

There’s another factual point with legal implications. Strauss-Kahn’s suite was expensive – the New York media have made a feature of the $3,000 per night tab — but it was paid for by the Fund for IMF business purposes. When Strauss-Kahn checked out of the hotel, and headed to the airport for the flight to his next business appointment – in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel – the hotel closed a set of accounting documents, billing the IMF and releasing Strauss-Kahn. That dossier and the circumstances of its creation are material to Strauss-Kahn’s legal rights and his fate now.

One of Strauss-Kahn’s rights is the presumption of innocence. So far, the New York police have gone to some length to ensure the rights of his accuser and the alleged victim, whose name has been withheld. But this is what the police spokesman Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne announced to the press on Saturday, as reported variously by the New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News:

“The married Strauss-Kahn was in the bathroom, and emerged naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where “he jumps her,” a source said. “She pulled away from him and he dragged her down a hallway into the bathroom where he engaged in a criminal sexual act, according to her account to detectives,” Browne said. “He tried to lock her into the hotel room.” Soon afterward, Strauss-Kahn got dressed and headed off to JFK for a flight to Paris.”

And here is the Daily News version of what Browne announced:

“The 32-year-old Sofitel maid provided a terrifying account of the attack to cops.
At about 1 p.m., she walked into Strauss-Kahn’s $3,000-a-night-suite – Room 2806 – at the posh W. 44th St. hotel, thinking it was empty. Strauss-Kahn, who is married to a New York-born journalist, emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down the hallway in his suite and yanked her into a bedroom, where he sexually assaulted her, the maid told police. She fought him off, but he dragged her into the bathroom, forced her to perform oral sex and tried to peel off her panties. At one point, he tried to lock the suite’s door, police said.”

There is an obvious difference between what the Post says it was told by Browne and what the Daily news reports. The former says Strauss-Kahn tried sodomy. The Daily News says oral sex.

The detective squad at Midtown South Precinct on West 35th Street was directly asked to clarify the discrepancy and other details of the evidence Browne claimed the police had collected. The detectives said they could say nothing to the press, and referred to Browne’s office. Two of Browne’s subordinates, who declined to give their names, said they confirmed the details Browne was quoted by the newspapers as having said about Strauss-Kahn. About the complainant and alleged victim, they said: “We do not release the name”.

New York newspapers are reporting that they know her name and have interviewed her co-workers, managers, even her apartment building superintendent and her neighbours. She is reported to be 32, and an immigrant from Africa, living with a teenage daughter. Investigates the Times: ““They’re good people,” said one neighbor, another African immigrant. “Every time I see her I’m happy because we’re both from Africa. She’s never given a problem for nobody. Never noisy. Everything nice.” At the Sofitel New York, a maid, who refused to give her name, described the woman as friendly. “In the world, she is a good person,” she said.” Asked to clarify several of the apparent discrepancies in what Browne is claiming to be the evidence of Strauss-Kahn’s guilt, one of his subordinates said: “You are nit-picking. I am not going to correct the Deputy Commissioner. Why don’t you write him and he will tell you himself he is not going to comment.”

Browne was then sent an email with five questions. They can be read in the questionnaire to follow. Browne has not replied.

The possibility that Strauss-Kahn has committed a serious crime is obvious. Because his roles at the IMF and in French politics are important, his rivals and enemies have encouraged media reporting that makes the New York evidence look an open-and-shut case, according to Commissioner Browne’s claims. But since the investigating detectives and the commissioner won’t clarify the discrepancies in their own evidence, there is the possibility that Strauss-Kahn is as innocent in fact as at this point in time he has the right to be considered.

So is Strauss-Kahn the target of some form of political plot? Even if the alleged victim isn’t a witting part of a honey trap, what has been released so far by the New York police looks like railroad job, with a rush to discredit the target for the rest of his life. Even the latest pictures are designed to make the Frenchman look guilty.

But guilty of what exactly?

New York procedure requires investigating police to hand over their evidence to the Manhattan District Attorney for the compilation of a formal document of the evidence substantiating the charges. This document is called the criminal complaint. It is signed by a prosecutor at the District Attorney’s office, and then submitted to the Manhattan Criminal Court on 100 Centre Street. The court then schedules an arraignment hearing at which the defendant is brought before a judge to verify identity, allow initial challenges to procedure and complaint, lodge a plea, and apply for release on bail. The annual reports of the New York Criminal Court, which includes the Manhattan Court, reports that the standard time between arrest and arraignment is between 20 hours and 30 hours, with an average of 25 hours.

According to sources at the District Attorney’s office, it was planned for Strauss-Kahn to appear for arraignment at 4 pm Sunday afternoon. That was 24 hours after detectives took him from his Air France plane at Kennedy Airport, and just over 12 hours after he was formally charged by the police. Prosecution sources were confirming the plan and timing of the arraignment at 3 pm New York time, with just one or two hours to go. But it didn’t happen.

The New York Times version of why goes like this. This report makes it appear that Strauss-Kahn has agreed to provide evidence that may be incriminating. There is no sign that he or his lawyers have objected with a claim of diplomatic immunity, at least not yet.

The defence lawyers are cited as explaining the arraignment delay as due to the extra time required for a “scientific forensic examination.” The New York police again, anonymously tipping off the New York Times: “The authorities said they had moved to obtain a court order granting them a search warrant to examine Mr. Strauss-Kahn for signs of injury that he might have suffered during a struggle or for traces of his accuser’s DNA. “Things like getting things from under the fingernails,” a law enforcement official explained, “the classic things you get in association with a sex assault.”

The official, who insisted on anonymity because the investigation was continuing, added that since the authorities believed there was a high likelihood that Mr. Strauss-Kahn would be allowed to post bail, investigators feared that he might leave the country with whatever clues his person might yield. “

The spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney, Joan Vollero, said no details about the evidence in the case could be released or commented on by prosecutors until the arraignment takes place, and the criminal complaint is released. That’s a public document, but the delay in arraignment for at least another day makes it impossible to examine.

The Sofitel Hotel was therefore asked about its management operations. Its general manager Jorge Tito – identifying himself by name – is reported in some media as confirming the good record and reputation of the maid. At least one more Sofitel Hotel employee, another maid, gave character testimony on the alleged victim’s behalf to the newspapers.

But when the hotel was called for a question about how the door-locks operate in the hotel, and which suite Strauss-Kahn occupied – the Prestige or the Imperial – the telephone operator, calling himself Jose (last name information “I cannot provide”), refused to give details. He referred to the press office of the Accor Group, owner of Sofitel. There Cindy I-am-not-authorized-to-give-my-last-name said she is “in no position to answer questions”. She agreed to take down the questions and relay them to an “appropriate official” who would answer by email. Neither name nor email address was allowed.

The questions asked are also included in the questionnaire below. The anonymous control centre, with the email address CONFIRM-ACCOR NA, responded: “The safety and security of our team members and guests is out [sic] utmost priority. We are taking this matter very seriously and the Sofitel team is fully cooperating with authorities in their investigation. Please direct all further inquiries regarding this matter to the New York Police Department’s Midtown South Detective Squad.”

The hotel knew that was a deadend. But was the rigmarole intended to preserve the presumption of innocence and other Strauss-Kahn rights? Or was it intended to prevent discrepancies and contradictions in the evidence from surfacing? Who, for example, at Sofitel and Accord, authorized this disclosure reported to the New York Times about the mobile telephone Strauss-Kahn forgot in his hotel suite before he left for the airport?

In the initial press reporting, the fact that Strauss-Kahn forgot his mobile was suggested as evidence that he had been in a rush to leave the scene of his crime and flee to the airport and then to safety elsewhere. The fact that he was scheduled to leave the hotel at the normal check-out time he took, bound for a flight booked well in advance, for a destination in Paris, then Berlin, was not reported. But here’s how the telephone appears to inculpate him at the bar of the New York Times:

“The police were called to the hotel about 1:30 on Saturday, but when they arrived, Mr. Strauss-Kahn had already checked out. At some point, Mr. Strauss-Kahn called the hotel and said that his cellphone was missing. Police detectives then coached hotel employees to tell him, falsely, that they had the telephone, according to the law enforcement official. Mr. Strauss-Kahn said he was at Kennedy Airport and about to get on a plane.”

Clever police work indeed! But since when do desperate criminals on the run call from their getaway vehicle to inquire if a telephone they were missing had been left behind?

So, if defendants who are middle-aged, male and accused of sex crimes against young women have human rights in the city of New York, even if they are French and work for reprobate organizations, then here is a list of questions about the evidence in the case against Strauss-Kahn. For the time being, the investigating detectives, the deputy commissioner of police, the Sofitel Hotel, the Accord Group management, the Manhattan District Attorney, and the Manhattan Criminal Court refuse to answer.


1. How (mechanically or electronically) did the door lock on the inside of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s room?

2. Did the cleaning lady, who is the complainant and alleged victim in this case, ring the door-bell before using her key to enter?

3. Was Mr Kahn’s room unoccupied on the evening before the alleged incident?

4. Did the alleging victim attempt to use her key to get out of the suite?

5. What was the criminal sex act charged against the defendant — the NY Post claims sodomy, the Daily News claims oral sex?

6. How or why can it happen that a cleaning person enters a room that is not occupied at 1 pm when the room is occupied.

7. What is the official title of the alleging victim’s employment functions?

8. How many mobile telephones have been found in the hotel over the past 12 months by guests inadvertently forgetting them on their departure?

9. Does the IMF have an account with the hotel or chain covering stays by IMF officials?

10. For check-out with such account clientele, is the minibar always checked before the guest can sign out on departure?

If answers occur to readers, they are urgently requested to submit them to Deputy New York Police Department Commissioner Browne and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

If it is anticipated that tomorrow, Strauss-Kahn and his lawyers will refuse to lodge a plea, but claim immunity from prosecution, there is enough time for the many governments sitting on the IMF board to decide secretly among themselves whether to allow him to slip away, or to face the music on his own.

If he refused to agree to the DNA testing of his body, but was subject to an order of the Manhattan Criminal Court, then details of what his lawyers argued at that hearing, and its outcome, remain concealed. The Court requires the arrest number in order to answer questions on a hearing and the disposition of a case. But officers at Commissioner Browne’s office at the police refused to provide the arrest number. The district attorney’s office did the same.

If Strauss-Kahn willingly agreed to the additional evidence collection, understanding and being fully apprised by his lawyers of his constitutional rights against self-incrimination, perhaps he thinks he is innocent of the crimes charged.

Maybe he is. But then, with the arraignment to come, if it happens, and the release of the criminal complaint, maybe readers will judge that he isn’t. Who knows?

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