Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund tipped to become French president before a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault in 2011, goes on trial in France on Monday in a separate case of alleged pimping.
Mr Strauss-Kahn (65) who settled a US civil case with chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo after criminal charges were dropped, faces as much as 10 years in jail and a fine of up to €1.5 million if convicted in the French trial.
Investigating magistrates who sent Mr Strauss-Kahn to trial with 13 others argue he knew he was dealing with prostitutes when taking part in sex parties in Paris, Lille and Washington from 2008 to 2011, a judicial source told Reuters.
He is charged with “pimping with aggravating circumstances”.
Defence lawyers for Mr Strauss-Kahn have flatly dismissed those allegations, arguing he never made a secret of his penchant for swinger parties but was unaware the women present were prostitutes and did not play any pivotal organisational role.
Defence lawyer Richard Malka said by telephone he had nothing to add ahead of the opening of the trial in the northern city of Lille. The affair has come to be known as the Carlton Affair, named after the Lille hotel at the centre of a sex ring.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, who starred as finance minister in a boom-time Socialist government in the late 1990s, became one of the world’s most influential decision-makers in 2007 as head of the International Monetary Fund, a public lender that plays a central role worldwide in the rescue of failing economies.
That high-flying career ended in May 2011 when the world witnessed live TV images of the then IMF chief being escorted handcuffed into custody in New York after the accusations of Sofitel room-cleaner Diallo.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, who was preparing to run for French president and enjoying a runaway lead in opinion polls ahead of the 2012 contest, resigned from the IMF. The abrupt fall from grace destroyed his political ambitions, leaving the way free for Francois Hollande.
Since returning to France, Strauss-Kahn has separated from his celebrity journalist wife, Anne Sinclair, met a new partner and pursued a career in private-sector investment.