In Depth

DSK and the chambermaid: two very different journeys

As Dominique Strauss-Kahn takes the stand in pimping trial his original accuser opens NY restaurant

A new restaurant opened in the Bronx recently. It's called 'Chez Amina' and the diners who sit on the red faux leather banquettes watching the flat-screen TVs can sample an eclectic cuisine with influences from America, Africa and Spain.

The restaurant is run by Nafissatou Diallo, the 36-year-old Guinean immigrant who in May 2011 found herself at the centre of one of the biggest political scandals of the 21st Century.

Diallo was the chambermaid at Manhattan's Sofitel Hotel who alleged she'd been sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn [DSK], at the time the head of the International Monetary Fund [IMF]. Arrested and charged by New York Police, DSK later saw the case against him dismissed when doubts emerged about his accuser's credibility. Nonetheless the Frenchman subsequently settled a civil action with Diallo in December 2012, one which allegedly earned her $1.4m.

"This restaurant, it's my new life," Diallo told the French press last week. "I'm trying to do the best I can so I can offer my daughter the best life possible here." Diallo added that she wants to give New York City "a good Afro-American restaurant".

For the man accused of molesting Diallo, life couldn't be more different. Having stepped down as head of the IMF, DSK was then divorced by his wife Anne Sinclair and abandoned by his colleagues in France's Socialist party. Today the 65-year-old took the stand in a Lille court to answer charges of "helping, assisting and protecting the prostitution" of seven women.

The 'Carlton Affair' as it is known, began in 2011 when police launched an investigation into an alleged prostitution network at Lille's Hotel Carlton. DSK is one of 14 defendants who face charges ranging from pimping to fraud. DSK denies all the allegations against him says he thought the women with whom he allegedly had sex at orgies were 'libertines', not prostitutes.

Topless activists from the Femen protest group jumped in front of Strauss-Kahn's car and climbed onto the roof as he arrived at the courthouse today. One of the women had "pimps, clients, guilty" written across her chest, The Guardian reports.

Giving evidence for the first time DSK admitted attending 12 sex parties in three years but rejected claims his involvement was "out of control". He added that the orgies he did attend were few and far between because he had "other things to do".

French press report that it's expected that the man once tipped to become the next president of France will spend two and a half days in the dock during the course of the trial.

The case began last week with evidence from some of the young women who were treated as the "dessert course" for wealthy and powerful businessmen. One of the women who took the stand last week, calling herself Jade, explained to the court her reason for becoming a prostitute: "I opened my fridge, knowing that I was facing a social services enquiry into the care of my children, and I saw that the fridge was empty."

Another former prostitute known as "Mounia" today revealed more details of the parties, telling the court that DSK had "brutally" forced her into a sexual act which was "against nature". The prosecution allege he would only have treated a woman he knew to be a prostitute in such a way. "Everyone there knew the girls were being paid," said Mounia.

Not a nation known for their sexual prurience, the French are riveted to the case in anticipation of more salacious and sordid details of DSK's sexual life as it spiralled out of control. Key to whether DSK is convicted – and possibly sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison or a €1.5m fine – is if some of the sex parties he attended in a Paris apartment he rented were held in order to benefit from prostitution.

Prostitution per se is not illegal in France if the sex workers are over 18, but pimping, aiding prostitution or living off its benefits are.

While DSK's lawyers have denounced his trial as "politically motivated", others are less sympathetic to his predicament. Douglas Wigdor, one of the lawyers who represented Nafissatou Diallo in her civil case, issued a statement via Twitter on Monday evening, in which he said of the Frenchman: "I am encouraged that he is finally being held responsible in France for his actions... History has shown what kind of man DSK is. Power and wealth should not shield DSK from the law, and DSK's mistreatment of women should not be tolerated."

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