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Rape charges expose troubled past of 'the Great Seducer' Strauss-Kahn Add to ...

He was correct on two out of the three. While anti-Semitism has not emerged as a factor in his bid to become the Socialist Party candidate for president in next month's primaries, he was already facing harsh media criticism for his lavish sports cars, $7,000 (U.S.) suits and first-class travel before Saturday's sex-crime charges.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn may also face further scrutiny related to his alleged assault on a young novelist named Tristane Banon. Ms. Banon said in a television interview in 2007 that she had been sexually attacked during an interview she conducted five years earlier with Mr. Strauss-Kahn, whose name was beeped out in the broadcast. "He was acting like a rutting chimpanzee," she said then.

On Monday, Ms. Banon said that she would be pressing a criminal complaint against the IMF chief. She offered a terse announcement on her Twitter account: "I will speak shortly to the media. For now, a complaint has been lodged at the police headquarters of the 11th [arrondissement of Paris]"

Often referred to in France simply by his initials - DSK - Mr. Strauss-Kahn is the son of a tax adviser and journalist. Born in the posh Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, he spent some of his childhood in Morocco and Monaco before returning to France. A gifted student and committed leftist, Mr. Strauss-Kahn earned degrees in business, law and political science and completed a doctorate in economics.

Charming and ambitious, he was elected to France's parliament in 1986 as a member of the Socialist Party, the start of what would be a long career in politics. During the 1990s, he served as both trade minister and finance minister before becoming embroiled in a corruption case, which was later dropped. In 1991, he married for the third time, to Anne Sinclair, possibly France's most famous television journalist.

The stunning nature of the accusations against Mr. Strauss-Kahn has set off a swirl of conspiracy theories in Paris. Mr. Strauss-Kahn himself claimed the party of President Nicolas Sarkozy prepared a smear campaign against him and said he had confronted the president at a urinal in Pittsburgh and told him to stop it.

Driving one of the conspiracy theories is the fact that the first person to reveal that Mr. Strauss-Kahn had been arrested was a young activist with Mr. Sarkozy's UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) party.

At 4:59 p.m. Saturday in New York, just 20 minutes after the IMF chief was removed from an Air France flight, a self-described UMP "militant" named Jonathan Pinet, used his Twitter account to announce the arrest.

Mr. Pinet, who grew up in Montreal but now studies in Paris, denied participating in a smear campaign. He later said that a French-Canadian friend of his who works for the Sofitel hotel in New York had informed him of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's arrest.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, a friend of Mr. Pinet's, said the conspiracy claims are outlandish. "Do you think a 21-year-old kid has the power to topple the head of the IMF?" he asked.

In Washington, the IMF's executive board met on Monday but gave no hint of a decision regarding Mr. Strauss-Kahn's future with the organization. In 2008, the board employed a law firm to investigate a relationship Mr. Strauss-Kahn had conducted with a female economist at the fund. The affair was determined to be consensual, and the executive board closed the book on the matter with a reprimand, calling the incident "regrettable" and an example of a "serious lack of judgment."

For his part, Mr. Strauss-Kahn pledged to do better in the future. "The personal behaviour of the managing director sets an important tone for the institution," he said in 2008. "I am committed, going forward, to uphold the high standards that are expected of this position."

The incident showed how difficult it can be for officials at the IMF to hold leaders responsible for their actions. "The bottom line is these managing directors wield enormous authority and there is no effective check on them," said Thomas Bernes, the executive director of the Waterloo, Ont.-based Centre for International Governance Innovation and a former Canadian executive director at the IMF.

Associates of Mr. Strauss-Kahn still were struggling to absorb the thunderbolt of seeing one of the central figures in the fight against the global recession being placed in the back of a police car in handcuffs.

"He is one of the most impressive public servants I have ever seen," said Robert Shapiro, chairman of Sonecon, LLC, an economics consultancy based in Washington, and a member of an external committee that Mr. Strauss-Kahn established to advise him on issues in the Western Hemisphere. "To say that I was shocked by [his arrest]understates my response."

With reports from Tu Thanh Ha and Ingrid Peritz in Montreal

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