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IMF chief imprisoned at Rikers Island

The world’s top banker spent Monday night in the world’s largest prison complex on Rikers Island in New York after being denied bail in a case charging him with sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. Yashwant Raj reports.

world Updated: May 18, 2011 00:05 IST
Yashwant Raj

The world’s top banker spent Monday night in the world’s largest prison complex on Rikers Island in New York after being denied bail in a case charging him with sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is going to spend the next three nights there as the world debates his future and that of the organisation he has headed since 2007, the IMF.

At Rikers, Strauss-Kahn, a French politician who was considering a presidential run in 2012, will find his cell a lot less luxurious than the $3,000 a night suite in which he is alleged to have tried to rape the housekeeper on Saturday.

Prison authorities have said Strauss-Kahn will be held in protective custody in a cell of his own unlike the lesser inmates who share 50-bed barracks, and will have a prison guard assigned to him. That is a rough facility designed to hold 14,000 inmates at a time; 20,000 with the staff (Tihar holds 12,000, which is way beyond its capacity).

And frequent fights are known to break out inmates and prison staff. “When I hear that your client was at JFK airport, about to board a flight that raises some concerns,” Judge Melissa Jackson told the defence lawyers while denying bail to their client, who stood by, looking haggard in a black raincoat.

The fact that the US and France don’t have an extradition treaty also played a part in bail being denied to Strauss-Kahn. The prosecution argued that he has absolutely no incentive for staying on in the US if freed on bail.

"He would be living openly and notoriously in France, just like Roman Polanski," Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel Alonso told Fox News, referring to the film director long wanted in California for sentencing in a 1977 child sex case.

Strauss-Kahn spent the last two nights at a police station on 121st Street in Harlem. He refused to eat anything Saturday evening, but had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, homefries and toast Sunday morning, and a ham-and-cheese sandwich for dinner.

Rikers might be a little less generous. As will be the IMF, where he is unlikely to return now as managing director. No 2 official John Lipsky is filling in for Strauss-Kahn as speculation rages about who will take over.

Planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia continues to figure on every list, though the top job might to go to another European – former UK prime minister Gordon Brown being a contender. For now, the fund is desperately trying distance itself from the incident, insisting Strauss-Kahn was on a private visit and that his hotel bill was way above the limit allowed to any IMF staffer on official duty in New York.

The fund’s executive board met Monday afternoon over the incident.

“The Board was briefed regarding criminal charges that have been brought against the Managing Director during a private visit,” said an IMF statement. But try as hard as it will, it can’t move away far enough.

The entire incident is trending on twitter under the name of “IMF” and not DSK (short for Dominique Strauss-Kahn) or Strauss-Kahn.

Mistress says affair was coerced

Piroska M Nagy, an economist who reportedly had an affair with IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2008, said that while their liaison was consensual, she felt coerced.

Strauss-Kahn’s brief affair with Nagy, a Hungarian-born economist who had worked at the IMF since 1986, later became public, spurring an internal investigation at the fund that would ultimately clear him of having abused the power of his office.

Nagy’s version of what happened said that the affair was consensual, but that she had felt coerced, NYT reported. During the affair, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said, Nagy couldn’t say no because Strauss-Kahn was so much more senior.

At the time, the board ruled that Strauss-Kahn had not abused his power. Nagy, however, disagreed.