Dominique Strauss-Kahn rolled the dice and lost. DSK, as he was popularly known, blundered in a moment of incredible stupidity, setting into motion castastrophic events that cost him his career, tarnished his reputation and destroyed his marriage.
DSK was managing director of the International Monetary Fund and a potential president of France when disaster struck on May 14, 2011.
It all began in his presidential suite at the five-star Sofitel Hotel in midtown Manhattan. When a 32-year-old maid named Nafissatou Diallo entered his room, he allegedly lunged at her and sexually assaulted her. Completely naked, he thrust his penis into her mouth and ejaculated, she says.
Feeling utterly degraded and humiliated, she ran away and reported the incident to her superiors. Within hours, DSK, then 62, was arrested. Within days, he resigned in disgrace from his position at the International Monetary Fund.
DSK’s downfall is the subject of Room 2806: The Accusation, a riveting four-part documentary now streaming on Netflix. DSK declined to be interviewed for this series, but he appears in file footage. Colleagues, friends and people close to the story fill in the blanks.
A French Jew, DSK was an economist, academic and politician. Regarded as one of the rising stars in the Socialist Party, DSK was first a backbencher in parliament and then a cabinet minister holding down economic portfolios. By all accounts, he served with distinction. Jack Lang, a former minister of culture, says he impressed everyone with his “dazzling intelligence.”
In 2007, he was appointed to the International Monetary Fund, headquartered in Washington, D.C. His assistant, Darlene Boyd, says he was the “financial czar of the world,” having played a critical role during the great international recession of 2008.
He and his third wife, Anne Sinclair, an American journalist and television personality who had worked in France, were the ultimate power couple. Highly respected, he was touted as a future president of France. Inspired by Barack Obama’s presidential victory, DSK’s supporters wore jerseys printed with the phrase, “Yes, We Kahn.”
Diallo, an immigrant from West Africa, settled in the United States in 2003 and lived with her daughter in a low-income neighborhood in the Bronx, a borough of Manhattan. She earned $25 an hour at the Sofitel Hotel and liked her job.
Having agreed to be interviewed for this documentary, she speaks her mind, passionately and tearfully. She claims that DSK behaved like an animal, grabbing her breasts and trying to pull down her panties. “I wanted him to stop,” she says.
According to a New York police department official, Diallo’s account of the incident was “consistent and credible.”
Leaving the hotel shortly after he allegedly assaulted Diallo, he hailed a cab and was driven to JFK Airport to catch a prearranged Air France flight to Paris. The police knew of his whereabouts because he had phoned the hotel from the airport to say he had forgotten his cellphone in the room. Removed from the airplane just before takeoff, DSK denied he had committed a crime and tried to convince police he had diplomatic immunity.
DSK’s ejaculate was found on Diallo’s blouse, the rug and the mouldings, but his lawyer claimed he and Diallo had consensual sex.
DSK’s friends and associates back in Paris professed to be shocked by the news and could not believe he was guilty as charged and faced a long prison sentence if convicted. Yet they had no illusions about his personality. They were aware that he “paid attention to pretty women” and that he was widely regarded as a womanizer. In one of his filmed comments, DSK pithily observes, “A life without passion isn’t worth living.”
The documentary claims that, while DSK was loyal to Anne Sinclair, he did not abide by the rules of marital fidelity. Driven by an unbridled sexual appetite, he had numerous affairs and frequented swinger clubs. Tristane Banon, a young journalist whose mother was romantically involved with DSK, says he attempted to seduce her.
Temporarily detained on Rikers Island prison, he was granted bail and released. His wife, having stood by him, rented a luxury apartment in New York City for 35,000 euros a month as they waited for an outcome to the legal process.
In the meantime, DSK’s defence team, spearheaded by the renowned criminal lawyer Benjamin Brafman, launched a campaign to discredit Diallo. Damaging information emerged that she had lied on her U.S. immigration application and that she was really a prostitute.
Their strategy worked. The indictment against DSK was summarily dismissed by a judge. “For some reason, they gave him a pass,” says Diallo’s puzzled lawyer. Nevertheless, both sides reached an agreement in which Diallo received a $1.5 million settlement.
DSK dodged jail, but his name was muddied yet again several years later when he was accused of aggravated pimping in connection with sex parties he apparently had a hand in organizing in Europe. Although he was acquitted, his wife threw up her hands in despair and divorced him.
Interviewed by CNN, he acknowledged that his behavior as a senior International Monetary Fund official had been inappropriate, but refused to admit that he had done anything wrong.
Nine years on, DSK roams the globe as a financial advisor. Judging by a photograph, his fourth wife is about half his age. As the old adage goes, a leopard cannot change its spots.