LILLE, France (AP) — Dominique Strauss-Kahn was handed preliminary charges Monday alleging he was involved in a hotel prostitution ring in France, a stunning blow on the home front for the former International Monetary Fund chief.
His lawyer said the married, 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn engaged in "libertine" acts but did nothing legally wrong. He's free on €100,000 bail.
The onetime French presidential hopeful has seen his sexual behavior scrutinized in the international spotlight over the past year. The French charges come two days before a New York court takes up a civil case in which a hotel maid accuses Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her.
Authorities in the French city of Lille are investigating what they believe was a prostitution ring involving prominent city figures and police — and Strauss-Kahn.
Investigating judges questioned the man known in France as DSK on Monday for about eight hours and gave him preliminary charges of "aggravated procurement in an organized gang," lawyer Richard Malka said. Under French law, preliminary charges mean authorities have reason to believe a crime was committed but allow more time for investigation.
Strauss-Kahn himself left in a black sedan without speaking publicly. He was released under judicial supervision after paying €100,000 in bail, and was barred from contacting others charged in the case, a judicial official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still underway.
Prostitutes questioned in the case said they had sex with Strauss-Kahn during 2010 and 2011 at a luxury hotel in Paris, a restaurant in the French capital and also in Washington, D.C., where he lived while working for the Washington-based IMF, judicial officials say.
The case against Strauss-Kahn hinges on whether he knew he was partying with prostitutes, and whose money was used to pay them. Lawyers for the ex-IMF chief have acknowledged that he attended orgies.
"Mr. Strauss-Kahn is finding himself, in large part because of his fame, thrown to the butchers," Malka said. "Colossal police and judicial means were deployed to crack and dissect his private life to an infinite degree, with the only goal being to invent and then castigate what can be considered a crime of lust."
He said it was inappropriate to use "simple libertine activity" to accuse Strauss-Kahn of procuring prostitutes or involvement in organized crime.
Two men with ties to Strauss-Kahn are behind bars in the probe, accused of paying the prostitutes: Fabrice Paszkowski, director of a medical supply company in northern France, and David Roquet, a former director of a subsidiary of utility company Eiffage.
French newspapers have dubbed the prostitution investigation "The Carlton Affair" after the name of the expensive Lille hotel where some encounters allegedly took place.
The Lille judges' questioning session had been scheduled for Wednesday — the day of the New York hearing — but was unexpectedly moved up to Monday. The reason for the change was unclear.
Strauss-Kahn's wife of two decades, renowned TV journalist Anne Sinclair, is now editor of the new French version of the Huffington Post website. The site carried a banner headline Monday night reading "PRELIMINARY CHARGES" over a photo of Strauss-Kahn.
The lawyer suggested that the charges were politically tinged, since they came down a month before France's presidential election. Just a year ago, Strauss-Kahn, a prominent economist, had topped polls as the man most likely to win.
The "Carlton affair" is unconnected to the New York case.
Strauss-Kahn quit the IMF after the New York hotel maid said he sexually assaulted her in May. The criminal charges were later dropped when prosecutors said the maid's testimony was unreliable. Strauss-Kahn said the encounter was "inappropriate" but insisted it wasn't violent.
The maid, an immigrant from Guinea, has insisted she was truthful about the encounter and is pursuing claims against Strauss-Kahn in a civil lawsuit. A hearing is set for Wednesday on Strauss-Kahn's claim that diplomatic immunity should insulate him from the lawsuit. Strauss-Kahn is not expected to attend.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.