In Brief

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's pimping trial begins in France

L'Affaire du Carlton continues as former IMF chief faces charges of 'pimping in an organised group'

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is to go on trial in France to face charges of pimping in one of the biggest trials of the year.

The former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is accused of organising and joining sex parties in Belgium, France and the US, where women were paid to take part in orgies.

Strauss-Kahn, the 65-year old former presidential hopeful, has admitted attending such sex parties , but denies knowing that the women involved in the orgies were prostitutes, the BBC reports. He has dismissed the charges as "dangerous and malicious insinuations and extrapolations".

While neither prostitution nor buying sex is illegal in France, these charges cover of variety of crimes including the aiding, abetting, organising, encouraging or assisting in the prostitution of other people. "Pimping in an organised group" carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a 1.5 million euro fine.

The case, known as L'Affaire du Carlton, began in 2011 following an investigation into a prostitution ring at the four-star Hotel Carlton in Lille. Strauss-Kahn was not involved in the alleged activity, but the case was widened after he was named by sex workers in a subsequent investigation. 

Other influential people accused include a police commissioner, a barrister, two luxury hotel directors and the owner of a chain of brothels known as "Dodo the pimp". All of the accused deny the charges.

Strauss-Kahn has been accused, but never convicted of several sex offences. In 2011, he stepped down as head of the IMF after he was accused of attempted rape by a hotel maid in New York. The charges were eventually dropped.

"[This] case is unprecedented in France," argues The Guardian's Kim Wilshire, "where strict privacy laws have until now largely prevented light being shone into the darker, sleazier corners of politicians' personal lives."

"It is also seen as a test of French voters’ broad-mindedness about their politicians’ sexual proclivities, and evidence of an austere new morality in a country that has long mocked "Anglo-Saxon Puritanism," she says.

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