The disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, took the stand Tuesday at a trial in which he is accused of taking part in an international prostitution ring and insisted: "I committed no crime, no wrongdoing."
Appearing before three judges in the northern French city of Lille, Strauss-Kahn said he had a "horror" of paid sex and would never have taken part in orgies at luxury hotels in Europe and the United States had he known that some of the women were prostitutes.
He admitted to investigators having group sex with the women but said this was not a "frenzied" activity and that he had “other things to do” at the time, because he was “busy saving the world from catastrophe” during the economic crisis.
Strauss-Kahn, who was once tipped to become president of France, is on trial with 13 co-defendants in what has been dubbed the "Carlton Affair" after a hotel in Lille at which a prostitution ring is alleged to have operated between 2009 and 2011.
Strauss-Kahn is accused of "proxenetisme aggrave," which roughly translates as aggravated aiding and abetting of prostitution. The offense carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.
The former IMF chief’s business friends are said to have paid women from Europe to take part in sex parties in Lille, Paris, Brussels and Washington at his instigation. He denies the charges, which he describes as "dangerous and malicious insinuations and extrapolations," according to French news reports [link in French]
Strauss-Kahn, 65, maintained Tuesday that his attendance at the parties was not "frenetic." "It was four times a year, not more than that," he said. "It wasn’t this out-of-control activity.”
"What pleases me in such gatherings is the party atmosphere before and after sexual relations," he told the court, adding that he "accepted the risk" of participating in "libertine" parties.
The court heard that unlike his co-accused, Strauss-Kahn had refused to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, saying he had "not committed any crime."
Paying for sex with anyone over 18 is not illegal in France, but it is against the law to procure prostitutes for others or to run a prostitution business.
Strauss-Kahn, who now describes himself as an international consultant, saw his political ambitions crumble when he was arrested in New York in 2011 and accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. He denied the charges, which were later dropped, and settled a civil lawsuit with his accuser, Guinean-born Nafissatou Diallo.
The new case has attracted widespread attention in France, where politicians using strict privacy laws have until now largely succeeded in preventing details of their private lives from being exposed.
After returning to France following his New York arrest, Strauss-Kahn was divorced by his wife, the television star Anne Sinclair. He said at the time that his relationship with Sinclair was “complicated.”
In court Tuesday, a sex worker told the three judges that she had not wanted to perform a certain unspecified sex act with Strauss-Kahn after she met him at an orgy. She said he just smiled and carried on.
His co-accused include a police commissioner, the owner of a chain of brothels in neighboring Belgium known as "Dodo the Pimp," a barrister, two luxury hotel directors and several reputed members of the Freemasons.
Willshire is a special correspondent.