Profile: Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Dominique Strauss-Kahn (file pic) Dominique Strauss-Kahn was once a potential presidential candidate

Revered for his economic acumen, political nous and powers of persuasion, Dominique Strauss-Kahn made a name for himself in the grandest salons of international finance.

By early 2011, his work as head of the International Monetary Fund saw him touted as a potential challenger to Nicolas Sarkozy as president of France.

But in May 2011, his political ambitions were all but ended in a single day when the US authorities filed charges of attempted rape.

He resigned as head of the IMF and, although the US charges were eventually dismissed, the scandal ushered in months of accusations and media stories about his private life.

By March 2012 he was facing another serious scandal, when French police launched an investigation over his alleged involvement with a gang suspected of hiring prostitutes for hotel parties.

Mr Strauss-Kahn admitted attending the parties at a luxury hotel in Lille, but denied knowing that prostitutes were present. A ruling on whether he should stand trial on pimping charges is expected on 19 December.

'Seduced with words'

Born in 1949 to left-wing Jewish parents, Mr Strauss-Kahn spent his early years in Morocco, leaving with his family after a devastating earthquake in 1960.

He studied law and economics in Paris during and after the famed protests of 1968, eventually becoming an academic known for his diligence and professionalism at the University of Nancy and, later, the University of Paris.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

  • Born 25 April 1949 in Paris
  • Attended France's prestigious Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po)
  • Becomes finance minister in 1997
  • Loses bid for Socialist Party presidential candidacy to Segolene Royal in 2006
  • Selected IMF head in 2007
  • Resigns as IMF head in May 2011 to defend charges of attempted rape

His economic beliefs emphasised the practical, overlooking the most radical ideas of the student movement while sympathising with the anti-war aims.

In person, Mr Strauss-Kahn also confounded the expectations of those who saw academics as fusty, bookish sorts.

"He seduced with words," one French journalist told the BBC.

He is also known to enjoy a lavish lifestyle.

Earlier this year Mr Strauss-Kahn separated from his wife of some 21 years, Anne Sinclair.

The American-French journalist is one of France's richest heiresses, having inherited a fortune from her grandfather, Paul Rosenberg, a leading French art dealer who represented Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse among others.

The couple were said to have owned properties in Paris, Washington and Marrakesh.

Start Quote

The man is an absolutely brilliant political operator”

End Quote Simon Johnson Former IMF official

In politics, though, Mr Strauss-Kahn seemed prepared to work for his rewards, taking up a seat in France's National Assembly for the town of Sarcelles, just outside Paris.

After a stint as industry minister he was appointed finance minister in Lionel Jospin's Socialist government in 1998, responsible for steering France towards the era of the euro.

Controversy forced him from office by 2000, though, as he faced accusations of corruption and financial scandal. He was eventually cleared of the allegations.


He sought national prominence again in 2006 but lost out to Segolene Royal in the battle to become the Socialist Party candidate for president.

Anne Sinclair and daughter Camille leave the New York court on 19/5/11 Mr Strauss-Kahn's wife Anne Sinclair and daughter Camille have attended some of his court hearings

When he re-emerged in 2007 as the new man at the helm of the IMF, Mr Strauss-Kahn's reputation as a ladies' man was not far behind him - with some people nicknaming him Chaud Lapin (Hot Rabbit).

In 2008, he had an affair with a fellow IMF employee, and was accused of harassment and abuse of power. He was cleared after an internal inquiry.

Those who know Mr Strauss-Kahn suggest that he may have benefited from the traditional French reluctance to probe the private lives of public figures.

In his professional life he continued to win praise at the IMF, with one colleague who recently left the organisation comparing his political skill to that of a "top-level chess player".

"The man is an absolutely brilliant political operator," economist Simon Johnson said in a 2010 BBC Radio 4 profile of Mr Strauss-Kahn.

But his career disintegrated with a series of scandals in 2011 and 2012.

The allegations of the attempted rape of a maid in New York were swiftly followed by allegations of sexual assault made by a French writer.

Although the US authorities dismissed the case against him, the maid is still pursuing him in the civil courts.

And the French authorities took no action against him for the sex assault claims because of a statute of limitations.

In October 2012, French prosecutors ended an investigation into allegations of "gang rape" at a hotel in Washington after the woman who made the claim retracted her evidence.

However, Mr Strauss-Kahn has been embroiled in another scandal after French judges placed him under formal investigation over alleged involvement in a prostitution ring.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in jail.

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