Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was in police custody overnight on Tuesday over allegations that he took part in orgies in Paris and Washington with prostitutes paid for by businessmen.
The 62-year-old former Socialist minister, who until last year was the frontrunner to replace French President Nicolas Sarkozy as president, had been summoned as a witness, but prosecutors said he was now a suspect.
He turned up voluntarily at a police station in the northern city of Lille and prosecutors said he would be detained on suspicion of “abetting aggravated pimping by an organized gang” and “misuse of company funds.”
A magistrate will decide whether the evidence supports charges on these or other potential offenses. He could be cleared, be charged and released on bail or remanded in custody pending an eventual trial.
A judge late on Tuesday extended Strauss-Kahn’s detention another 24 hours to today, an informed source said.
He can be held a maximum of 96 hours without charge, but was not expected to stay in custody more than 48 hours.
Under French law, aggravated organized pimping carries a prison term of up to 20 years, and profiting from embezzlement five years and a large fine.
Investigating magistrates want to know whether he was aware that the women who entertained him at parties in restaurants, hotels and swingers’ clubs in Washington, Paris and several other European capitals were paid prostitutes.
They will also seek to determine whether Strauss-Kahn knew that the escorts were paid with funds fraudulently obtained by his hosts from a French public works company, for which one of them worked as a senior executive.
Paying a prostitute is not illegal in France, but profiting from vice or embezzling company funds to pay for sex can lead to charges.
The former IMF managing director admits he has an uninhibited sex life, but denies any role in pimping or corruption and he has indicated he will deny any criminal wrongdoing.
Lawyer Henri Leclerc has said his client may not have known he was with prostitutes as “in these parties, you’re not necessarily dressed. I defy you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a nude woman of quality.”
Two businessmen, Fabrice Paszkowski, a medical equipment tycoon, and David Roquet, former director of a local subsidiary of building giant BTP Eiffage, have been charged.
The pair have alleged links to a network of French and Belgian prostitutes centered on the Carlton Hotel in Lille, a well-known meeting place of the local business and political elite in a city run by the Socialist Party.
In all, eight people have been charged in connection with the “Carlton affair” — including three executives from the luxury hotel, a leading lawyer and deputy police chief Jean-Christophe Lagarde.