Paris: Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned to Paris Sunday for the first time since a New York hotel maid accused him of attempted rape in a sensational sex scandal that scuppered his hopes for the French presidency.
The former IMF chief and his journalist wife Anne Sinclair arrived at dawn at Charles de Gaulle airport on an Air France flight and were whisked off in a black Peugeot to their apartment in the chic Place des Vosges.
They smiled and waved but made no statement to the horde of journalists awaiting their arrival at the airport and again declined to comment when mobbed by media as they got to their home in the Marais area in the heart of Paris.
Strauss-Kahn, dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, boarded the flight at New York’s JFK International airport late Saturday, less than two weeks after sexual assault charges against him were dropped.
The 62-year-old resigned as the International Monetary Fund’s managing director in May after he was arrested at JFK airport and charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of the Sofitel hotel maid, Nafissatou Diallo.
The Socialist politician, known in France by his initials DSK, spent nearly a week in jail, and was then put under house arrest for six weeks and barred from leaving the United States.
But last week he walked free when a judge dismissed charges against him after prosecutors said they could not pursue the case because the accuser’s lies had made it impossible to prove her accusations beyond a reasonable doubt.
DNA evidence indicated that a sexual encounter did occur between the two in the hotel, but Strauss-Kahn’s defence team insists that it was consensual.
The case against him began to unravel weeks after his arrest when prosecutors said his accuser had been caught lying on her asylum application form, including about a gang rape she had suffered in her native Guinea.
Strauss-Kahn’s legal travails are however far from over.
Diallo is pursuing a civil suit against him seeking unspecified damages, while in France, 32-year-old novelist Tristane Banon has filed a complaint alleging he tried to rape her after luring her to a Paris flat in 2003.
He has said he will sue Banon for defamation, alleging she invented the story to help publicise her writing.
Banon’s mother, Anne Mansouret said Sunday that the media storm surrounding Strauss-Kahn’s homecoming was “indecent”.
“Let’s hope he won’t leave for Morocco to escape police interrogation” in the case involving her daughter, Mansouret, a Socialist party official, told BFM television.
Chantal Brunel, the head of France’s national watchdog on sexual equality, said Strauss-Kahn would remain “an indelible stain on the Socialist party” and that the dropping of charges against him was a step backwards in the fight to stop violence against women.
But Jack Lang, a former Socialist minister and a neighbour of Strauss-Kahn on the Place des Vosges, welcomed his return, and said he hoped his great political and economic talent would soon be put to use again.
“I’m eager to return to my country,” Strauss-Kahn had told reporters outside his home in Lower Manhattan on 23 August after the charges against him were dropped, calling the legal saga a “terrible and unjust ordeal”.
“I’ll speak at greater length once I’m back in France.”
In a written statement, he said the three-month-long legal process had been a “nightmare for me and my family”.
An aide said that Strauss-Kahn would not make any statement on Sunday.
Strauss-Kahn, a respected economist and former finance minister, had been expected to be President Nicolas Sarkozy’s main challenger in 2012 elections before the scandal broke, but the saga left his political career in tatters.
His imminent return had caused embarrassment for France’s opposition Socialist Party as it prepares to vote in a primary to choose a candidate to run against Sarkozy in the presidential election next April and May.
Sarkozy is languishing in opinion polls and the French economy is flatlining, so whichever Socialist emerges from the primary ought to be in with a chance.
But the party has been left in disarray by the spectacular burnout of its former hero Strauss-Kahn.