LILLE, France (AFP) - The sexual proclivities of former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn come under the spotlight again on Monday when he goes on trial in France for "pimping" four years after a sex scandal cost him a shot at the presidency.
The disgraced 65-year-old economist finds himself back in the dock - this time in the northern French city of Lille - accused of being part of a prostitution ring used by his entourage to organise sex parties for him in Brussels, Paris and Washington.
Lurid details of group sex and high-end prostitution are likely to emerge in the three-week trial, during which Strauss-Kahn will take the stand alongside a colourful cast of characters including luxury hotel managers, police, freemasons and a brothel owner nicknamed "Dodo the Pimp". The trial will be the latest in a series of legal woes that have allowed judges and journalists to peek behind the bedroom door of a man once tipped as a potential challenger to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
The former head of the IMF, known in France as DSK, saw his career implode in 2011 when he was paraded handcuffed in front of the world's cameras after a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault.
While those criminal charges were dropped and the case settled in a civil suit, further humiliation ensued as a litany of sordid tales - from affairs to further charges of violence against women - emerged.
Then, six months after the scandal in New York, his name cropped up in an investigation into a prostitution ring in northern France and Belgium known as the "Carlton Affair" after one of the swish hotels in Lille where local businessmen and police officials would organise sex parties.
The run-of-the-mill probe into a vice ring revealed some of the prostitutes involved had been paid to participate in orgies attended by Strauss-Kahn, who was charged with "aggravated pimping in an organised group".
The silver-haired former finance minister admits to being a "libertine" who enjoys orgies but has steadfastly denied being aware the women attending the parties were paid.
This is the crux of the case the state will have to prove: whether he knew the women lavishing their attention on him were prostitutes and whether he played a role in organising their presence In France, while prostitution is legal, "proxenitisme", or procuring, is not.
So-called pimping has a much wider scope in the eyes of the law than its usual definition as an agent for prostitutes, and includes profiting from and aiding and abetting prostitution.
But even prosecutors have been divided over whether there is enough evidence for DSK to face trial and a possible 10 year jail term. In 2013 state prosecutor Frederic Fevre called for the charges to be dropped, but investigating judges overruled him and ordered DSK to stand trial.
Their probe found that DSK was the "king of the party", and they are seeking to prove his mere presence gave rise to prostitution as his entourage organised the evenings according to his schedule.
Those attending the gatherings described "carnage with a heap of mattresses on the floor", with DSK the focus of several women at a time in an atmosphere more of "pure sexual consummation" than a typical swinger's party.
Before the trial proper begins, the court will on Monday deal with a host of procedural applications, such as one for the trial to take place behind closed doors from one of the prostitutes testifying.
The first to take the stand among the 14 accused on Tuesday will be the Carlton's former public relations manager Rene Kojfer, who is accused of organising prostitutes for "well-connected men", often setting them up in his hotel.
He is also accused of doing publicity for another accused, a pimp who owns a string of brothels near the French border in Belgium, where rules are more lax.
Dominique Alderweireld, nicknamed "Dodo la Saumure" - which loosely translates as Dodo the Mackerel, the French slang for pimp - is accused of procuring prostitutes for Kojfer, some of whom were employed at the orgies attended by DSK.
Strauss-Kahn will be in court for the start of the trial and will be cross-examined from Feb 10.