French sex assault probe against Strauss-Kahn shelved

Reuters , Thursday 13 Oct 2011

While evidence exists suggesting assault, French prosecutors drop charges against ex-IMF chief for attempted rape due to the statute of limitations

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, September, (Reuters).

French prosecutors on Thursday dropped an inquiry into a French writer's accusations of attempted rape against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn due to lack of evidence.

The Paris public prosecutor's office said in a statement that evidence existed suggesting sexual assault but that pursuit on these grounds was not possible under the statute of limitations. The incident at the centre of the complaint dates back to 2003.

Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist who was once runaway favourite to become next French president, quit as head of the International Monetary Fund in May after police arrested him in New York on criminal charges, now dropped, of attempting to rape a hotel maid.

In France, he is being pursued by writer Tristane Banon, a woman 30 years his junior who accuses him of attempted rape in 2003 in a Paris flat where she went to interview him.

While it would have been possible to pursue on a count of attempted rape, other sex assault charges fall outside of the judicial time limits.

In the statement, the prosecutor's office said of a preliminary inquiry by police: "What came to light is that, while there is not enough evidence to pursue on a count of attempted rape, there are elements that can be qualified as sexual assault."

Since the incident in question dated back to 2003 but Banon only filed her complaint in 2011, the matter could not be pursued, it said.

Banon's lawyer, David Koubbi, said the outcome was disappointing but that it proved her complaint was not a figment of her imagination.

U.S. prosecutors decided in August to drop charges against 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn, citing concern over the credibility of the hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, but her lawyers have threatened to start civil proceedings.

In a recent interview with French television, Strauss-Kahn said that the nine-minute sexual encounter with Diallo that led to his arrest and a three-month legal battle was consensual, saying: "It was a moral error and I am not proud of it."

In Banon's case his lawyers have dismissed the accusations and counter-attacked for defamation.

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