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The IMF chief, the Canadian-born student - and the tweet that rocked the world

A undated Facebook photo of Jonathan Pinet.

At the start of the evening, you were a little-known young student from Montreal, chatting online with a friend.

A few hours later, you've become an international celebrity and a key figure in web conspiracy theories about a bombshell that has struck the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Saturday's arrest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn in New York has suddenly propelled Jonathan Pinet, a Canadian-born student, into an international storm.

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Mr. Pinet, who grew up in Montreal and now studies in Paris, tweeted about the arrest before it was reported by the mainstream media.

A French economist and former cabinet minister, Mr. Strauss-Kahn was expected to be a top contender against French President Nicolas Sarkozy in France's next presidential race.

Mr. Pinet, whose father is French, is a supporter of Mr. Sarkozy's ruling UMP party. He is currently studying at Paris's Science Po university.

His political leanings and the timing of his tweet have given fuel to those who believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn, who was charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid, was the victim of a right-wing plot.

In an interview, Mr. Pinet's father, a physics teacher at a Montreal college, said he was stunned by the " Ć©lucubrations" (wild speculations) swirling around his son.

"I have complete faith in my son, who is being honest about this whole story," Raphaƫl Pinet said.

The younger Mr. Pinet posted on his blog a detailed account of what he did, saying he wanted to "put an end to those grotesque rumours" that he was part of some shadowy conspiracy.

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He said he was in Paris when he learned of the affair on Saturday, 17 minutes after Mr. Strauss-Kahn's 4:40 p.m. arrest, as he chatted on Facebook with a friend in New York.

The New York friend knew someone at the hotel where the assault allegedly took place.

At 4:59 p.m., Mr. Pinet tweeted: "A buddy in the United States told me that police arrested #DSK in an NYC hotel an hour ago."

One of his Twitter followers, Arnaud Dassier, a Sarkozy campaign worker, spotted the tweet and messaged Mr. Pinet for more details.

Then, at 5:23 p.m., Mr. Dassier tweeted "Apparently #DSK in New York, it's very, very serious."

It would be another hour before the New York Post became the first media outlet to report the arrest. By the next morning, websites in France were already speculating about Mr. Pinet's role.

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A friend of Mr. Pinet, Pierre-Henri Dumont, said the conspiracy claims are outlandish.

"Do you think a 21-year-old kid has the power to topple the head of the IMF?"

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