Strauss-Kahn had been accused of being part of an international vice ring in what became known as the Carlton Affair, after the hotel in northern France where the alleged prostitution network was said to have been based.
The onetime presidential hopeful, known in France as DSK, admitted he took part in sex parties reminiscent of orgies in antiquity because he needed “recreational sessions” while busy “saving the world” from one of its worst financial meltdowns.
However, he denied knowing the women taking part in what were described at the three-week trial in February as “beast-like scenes" were prostitutes, saying he simply thought they were “libertines.”
While much of the evidence was sordid, Strauss-Kahn insisted his morality was not on trial and even the public prosecutor asked for him to be cleared. The court in the northern French city of Lille found there was no proof Strauss-Kahn, 66, had promoted prostitution and profited from it.
Twelve other defendants accused of being part of the same vice ring were also cleared.
The verdict was the final act in a four-year drama for Strauss-Kahn, who was on track for the president’s job at the Elysée Palace in 2011 when he was hauled off a plane in New York and accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid.
The case was later dropped, though Strauss-Kahn paid Nafissatou Diallo substantial but undisclosed damages after she lodged a civil complaint for a “violent and sadistic attack, humiliating and degrading behavior” that was settled out of court.
Afterward, the politician was forced to stand down as head of the IMF, abandon his presidential hopes and was later divorced by his wife, glamorous television presenter Anne Sinclair, now editor of the French edition of the Huffington Post. She had publicly stood by him during his American court ordeal.
In a television interview in September 2011 on his return to France, Strauss-Kahn admitted having behaved “inappropriately” with Diallo and said he was guilty of a “moral fault,” but strenuously denied any act of aggression or violence.
Willsher is a special correspondent.