4:16pm

Sun May 15, 2011
Europe

IMF Chief's Arrest Stuns France

The arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, for alleged criminal sexual behavior against a hotel maid in New York City has shocked France where he was widely expected to be the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party a year from now.

Strauss-Kahn was supposed to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Sunday to discuss the Greek debt crisis. Instead, one of the most powerful men on the planet is in the custody of New York police, facing possible charges of sexual aggression, attempted rape and imprisonment.

France woke up Sunday morning to the sordid details. According to police, Strauss-Kahn attacked a hotel maid who had come to clean his room, thinking he was gone, and she had to fight to get him off of her before escaping. New York police say Strauss-Kahn fled the hotel, leaving behind personal articles, including his cell phone. He was seated in a first-class seat on a Paris-bound Air France flight when police arrested him.

"We're all shocked and I am astonished that someone who was going to run for president would do something like this," said Dimitry Dinas, 28, who was with his friends near the Eiffel Tower. "Is it an organized plot to frame him? That's what we're all wondering."

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or DSK as he is known here, seemed to have it all. Though he had not yet announced his candidacy for president, he was already a frontrunner in opinion polls. France has been buzzing for months about when he would officially throw his hat into the ring.

But Strauss-Kahn has had personal difficulties. He's accused of being a womanizer. In 2008, he had an affair with a subordinate at the IMF, which he later acknowledged was an error of judgment. But even in a land where politicians are allowed their private life, the latest accusations may prove too much.

Parisian Ludivine Fuerlin says she is disgusted by the news.

"There's a huge difference between having a mistress and trying to rape a maid in a hotel," she said. "It's just not acceptable."

Strauss-Kahn's attorneys say he will plead not guilty to all charges. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.