Former IMF chief Strauss-Kahn arrives in court to hear pimping verdict

Former FMI head Dominique Strauss-Kahn enters his car as he leaves his apartment in Paris, France, June 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Former FMI head Dominique Strauss-Kahn enters his car as he leaves his apartment in Paris, France, June 12, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

LILLE, France (AFP) - Ex-International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn looked likely to be acquitted Friday in the latest legal snare over his sexual escapades when a French judge rules on pimping charges against him.

The 66-year-old economist was all smiles as he arrived in court in the northern French city of Lille where a prosecutor called for him to be cleared in February after a colourful three-week trial which exposed lurid details of champagne-fuelled orgies and prostitution.

An acquittal would draw the line under a series of sexual scandals that have dogged Strauss-Kahn and dragged intimate details of his bedroom proclivities into the public eye.

The silver-haired economist saw his high-flying career at the head of the International Monetary Fund - and his French presidential prospects - implode when a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011.

Not long after those criminal charges were dropped and the case settled in a civil suit, his name cropped up in a probe into a prostitution ring in northern France, which provided sex workers for orgies he attended.

He was charged with "aggravated pimping" for allegedly aiding and abetting the prostitution of seven women - a charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

At his trial in February, Strauss-Kahn calmly fended off the accusations, saying that while he was a libertine who enjoyed group sex, he was unaware any of the women attending the soirees had been paid to be there.

However, he lost his temper as lawyers pushed the former prostitutes to recount brutal scenes in which he sodomised them, allegedly without their permission, saying he was not on trial for "deviant practices".

"I must have a sexuality which, compared to average men, is more rough. Women have the right not to like that, whether they are prostitutes or not," he said.

He said the use of prostitutes "horrified" him and that paying for sex would be too great a risk for a man at the head of the IMF, which was busy "saving the world" from the financial crisis that began in 2008.

In their closing arguments, his lawyers said the case against him had "collapsed" into nothing more than an indictment of Strauss-Kahn's morals, and the prosecution appeared to agree.

Main prosecutor Frederic Fevre called for Strauss-Kahn to be acquitted, saying that "neither the judicial enquiry nor the hearing have established that Mr Strauss-Kahn is guilty".

In another boost for Strauss-Kahn, two ex-prostitutes who attended the orgies dropped a civil lawsuit against him, with lawyers saying they lacked enough proof to win the case.

The verdict will be handed down in the northern city of Lille from around 11:00am local time (5 pm Singapore).

'Ego, ambition and desires'

Strauss-Kahn found himself in the dock alongside a colourful cast of 13 characters, including a senior police officer and brothel owner Dominique Alderweireld, known as "Dodo the Pimp".

Alderweireld admits providing prostitutes to friends of Strauss-Kahn, who are among the accused, and testified to keeping the women's true nature a secret as they sought to impress the "future president of the republic".

Mr Fevre called for a series of suspended sentences and fines ranging from 2,500 euros to 20,000 euros (S$3787 to S$30,298) for the 13 other accused.

"This was not a mafia network that was dismantled," said Fevre, but a group of friends trying to "satisfy egos, ambitions and quite simply, physical desires".

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