Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Who is the predator and who is the victim? A lengthy article published on Sunday raises new questions about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former chief of the IMF. It suggests that he may be the victim of a vast conspiracy.
Photo: © AFP
The French desperately wanted to forget DSK after his name appeared in what is called the “Carlton Affair” here, his alleged involvement in a call girl ring from Lille, where he was under inquiry on suspicion of organizing prostitution. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But now the whole story is starting all over again: Not only had he celebrated his 20th marriage anniversary with Anne Sinclair over a “romantic dinner” last Saturday – now he’s grinning from all the front pages again: Yesterday, Edward Jay Epstein, a highly renowned veteran American journalist, published a meticulous summary of the known facts of the Sofital affair in the New York Review of Books. It’s the best report available so far of what exactly might have happened on May 14, 2011, when Strauss-Kahn found himself arrested by the police in New York.
Epstein’s report studies hotel door key and phone records and traces links to Strauss-Kahn’s potential political rivals – and he suggests the possibility that the then head of the IMF has been set up. Even if you’re not fond of conspiracy theories, you will find some compelling evidence there and a lot of really odd points, which actually throw a different light onto the case and definitely deserve your attention.
Point one: Before the encounter with the Guinean-born maid Nafissatou Diallo, somebody had nosed around in DSK’s BlackBerry. There were reasons for him to believe that his telephone was under electronic surveillance. One of his ex-collaborators, currently working as a researcher for French president Sarkozy’s party UMP, had apparently sent him a text that very same morning, warning him that at least one email possibly sent from the BlackBerry to his wife, Anne Sinclair, had turned up at the party offices and been read by some UMP colleagues.
Those sources close to Straus-Kahn told Epstein that another friend in the French diplomatic corps had warned him that he might be embarrassed by a scandal. That morning, Epstein claims, Strauss-Kahn rang his wife and asked her to ask a friend to arrange for his BlackBerry and iPad to be seen by experts as soon as he would arrive in Paris.
Strangely, that BlackBerry went missing that same day. Epstein curiously doesn’t ask the question whether Nafissatou Diallo might have snatched it. Fact is, DSK called his daughter from that telephone at 12:13 on May 14th. That was the last time he had it. As we do not know when exactly the maid left the suite (there are no records of her electronic key leaving the suite), it is possible that she was still there. It’s even probable when calculating that their sexual relation (consensual or not) took only six to seven minutes maximum.
Could she have taken the BlackBerry and handed it over to somebody in the neighbouring room 2820 that she entered several times before and after the alleged assault? Maybe. Again, fact is, that the Blackberry of DSK was “disabled” at 12.51pm, only a few minutes after he reached the restaurant where he met his daughter. Disabled means, the smart phone was no longer sending out any signals, as if manipulated by somebody who knows a lot about smart phones. The Blackberry, which does not appear to have left the Sofitel, has never reappeared.
Point number two: Why did the maid after the alleged sexual aggression enter room 2820 at 12:26pm on the same floor? And why did she withhold that fact from the police? That room would have been declared part of the crime scene, too, and searched by the police. Again, Sofitel doesn’t reveal the identity of the client who stayed in 2820, saying only it was a French businessman visiting New York.
Point number three: less than three minutes after the police were finally called, a security video shows two people inside the Sofitel performing a kind of dance of joy: “The two men high-five each other, clap their hands, and do what looks like an extraordinary dance of celebration that lasts for three minutes. They are then shown standing by the service door … apparently waiting for the police to arrive,” Epstein writes.
One of these men is Brian Yearwood, the hotel’s chief engineer. The other is unidentified. Sofitel officials say, by contrast, the scene only lasted for some seconds and that the men have been celebrating a sports event but do not remember which one. Strangely, and Epstein doesn’t write this in his article but declares it in an interview he gave to the French Journal de Dimanche, that same Brian Yearwood had exchanged 26 text messages with John Sheehan, the security director of Accor, the group behind Sofitel, between 12:21 and 12:24. Two minutes later, at 12:26, Mrs. Diallo entered room 2820.
Here comes the final twist of Epstein’s breathtaking story: Head of security for the whole Accor Group is René-Georges Querry, a well-connected former chief of the French anti-gang police brigades. “Before joining Accor Group in 2003”, Epstein notes, “he had worked closely in the police with Ange Mancini, who is now coordinator for intelligence for President Sarkozy.” Sheehan, the director of security of Accor, dialed a number in New York where he could have reached his ultimate superior, Mr. Querry. But Querry was at that moment in France, arriving at a soccer match in Paris where he would be seated – in the box of President Sarkozy. Coincidence? Possible. If not, if this turns out to be a plan hatched out by close relations to Sarkozy, then it will be his end, too. And, maybe, the end of France as a decent nation.
Last point: Why has Claude Guéant, Sarkozy’s close collaborator and actual Interior minister, rapidly dismissed the allegations as “pure fantasy”? If it was “pure fantasy”, Guéant would do better to not react at all, wouldn’t he? Or was he caught flatfooted by the shocking account?
There are two things the French know that aren’t changed by Epstein’s investigation: First, DSK, the former favourite French candidate for the presidential election, obviously has mental problems and a pretty weird sex life, regardless of whether he became a rapist or not in that Sofitel suite. Second, Nicolas Sarkozy would love to stay in power after the 2012 elections. Would he and/or his team go as far as to set up a full-blown conspiracy? That remains to be investigated. As long as the questions linger, the French have to answer another very sobering question: Is it possible that this country only has the choice to be governed either by a man with sexual issues or by a ruthless mafia? Right now, they all look kind of mad.