Paris (AFP) – Power can be a heady aphrodisiac and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, when chief of the International Monetary Fund and about to run for French president, had plenty of it.
But eventually his voracious sexual appetite would prove his undoing.
“Yes, I like women, so what?” the silver-haired Strauss-Kahn told the Liberation newspaper in April 2011, just weeks before his high-flying career imploded over accusations he sexually assaulted a New York hotel maid.
After settling the case in a civil suit Strauss-Kahn admitted “a moral failing”, but the next sex scandal was just around the corner when he became a key suspect in a probe into a prostitution ring.
The once-dazzling politician and economist, known as DSK in France, is now in the dock for “aggravated pimping” over his role in initiating sex parties attended by prostitutes in France, Belgium and Washington.
The court is likely to hear sleazy details about the dark side of the man who once jetted around the world steering the International Monetary Fund through the global financial crisis.
He admits he took part in group sex but denies knowing that the women at the parties were prostitutes.
Strauss-Kahn was born to a Jewish family in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1949 and spent part of his childhood in Morocco.
He racked up diplomas at the elite Paris universities Sciences-Po and HEC, marrying a woman two years his senior at the tender age of 18.
He joined the Socialist Party in 1976 and within a decade underwent a total makeover, marrying a second time, shaving off his beard and ditching his thick glasses.
Skilled at explaining complex economic issues in simple terms, he soared through the ranks of the party, entering parliament in 1986 and later becoming mayor of a Parisian suburb.
Strauss-Kahn’s third marriage, to famous French television journalist and wealthy heiress Anne Sinclair, made him part of a slick power couple.
In 1997 he became finance minister, taking part in negotiations on the creation of the euro currency and winning respect across the continent.
After winning the French presidency in 2007, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy put Strauss-Kahn forward as France’s candidate to head the IMF, a move seen as a bid to neutralise one of the Socialists’ most prominent leaders.
Rumours of DSK’s dalliances had lurked in the background for years, making few waves in France where attitudes toward sex have traditionally been more relaxed and privacy issues are sacrosanct.
His first sex scandal erupted in 2008: an affair with a married Hungarian IMF economist who said she felt coerced into the fling. An IMF probe concluded he had not exerted pressure on her, but had made an error of judgement.
Then in 2011, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo accused him of sexually assaulting her in his luxury suite in New York.
The charges were described as a “thunderbolt” by fellow Socialists, dumbstruck at seeing their likely presidential candidate paraded in handcuffs before the world’s media.
He was forced to quit the IMF and abandon what was seen as a promising presidential challenge to Sarkozy.
Criminal charges were dropped after Diallo was found to be an unreliable witness.
But whatever really happened in that hotel room, more allegations of DSK’s sexual excesses awaited him on his return to France.
First, a 32-year-old writer accused him of trying to rape her in 2003, but investigators ruled the incident happened too long ago to be prosecuted.
Then he was accused of being at the centre of a prostitution ring, with witnesses for the prosecution calling him the “king of the party” at orgies where the sex was allegedly paid for.
The latest charges proved the final straw for his wife Sinclair, who stood by him during the New York scandal but left him in 2012.
Strauss-Kahn has attempted to rebuild his life, acting as a consultant to the governments of Serbia, South Sudan as well as the Russian Regional Development Bank.