Dominique Strauss-Kahn: hotel security chief on phone to Elysee within minutes
The security chief of the group owning the hotel where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of trying to rape a maid was on the phone to President Nicolas Sarkozy's palace within minutes of learning of the alleged assault, he has confirmed.
France's opposition Socialists claimed that the timing of the call raised questions about whether there was any official involvement in the arrest of the former head of the International Monetary Fund.
Mr Straus-Kahn is a Socialist party heavyweight and polls suggested he was favourite to become France's next president should he run in elections next year.
There had been a string of allegations since the 62 year-old's arrest on May 14 implying that he was the victim of a set-up or conspiracy, allegedly involving the French-owned Accor group, which owned the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan where the sex assault was alleged to have taken place.
"All is not clear in the behaviour of Sofitel and Accor group management and there could have been links between the Accor group before or after the affair and perhaps certain secret service groups," said François Loncle, a Socialist MP.
Michèle Sabban, the Socialist vice-president of the Paris area regional council, went further, claiming Mr Strauss-Kahn had been the victim of a "political attack".
She questioned Mr Sarkozy's links with the Accor group and New York police chief, pointing out that the president had recently awarded the American official with the Légion d'Honneur – France's highest honour.
However Accor's security chief, René-Georges Querry, dismissed conspiracy claims. He said he received a call at about 11.45pm French time, roughly an hour after Mr Strauss-Kahn's arrest, as he boarded an Air France flight back to Paris.
He confirmed that he had "immediately" phoned Ange Mancini, who coordinates national intelligence at the Elysée palace. He said he rang him because of his post and because he was a close "friend". Mr Querry long held a senior police post before going into the private sector.
"I merely relayed information that was already public in New York," he told Le Journal du Dimanche, adding that this was four hours after the maid made her sex attack claims to hotel management.
"As for suggesting that I had some kind of influence over New York police from Paris, that's sheer madness."
Accor sources said it was not unusual for the group to contact the government in the event of an international emergency.
The case against Mr Strauss-Kahn has been on the verge of collapse since the prosecution questioned the credibility of her testimony and released the Frenchman without bail.
Despite legal expert claims the case is heading for dismissal, the prosecution is pursuing its investigation. Adding weight to her rape claims yesterday, a psychological report of the maid shortly after the alleged incident found her state of shock credible.
"It is evident that this woman is re-living and perceiving very strong mental images of her assault," wrote a care worker at the Saint-Luke's-Roosevelt hospital, in extracts published by Le Parisien newspaper yesterday.
She was clearly "perturbed and affected" by it, it went on.
Whatever the outcome of the US case, Mr Strauss-Kahn now faces legal woes back in his native France. Tristane Banon, a goddaughter of his second wife, filed a criminal complaint in Paris last week accusing him of trying to rape her eight years ago. Her mother has said he once confided: "I don't know what came over me. I lost my mind." Mr Strauss-Kahn's lawyers dismissed Miss Banon's claims as "imaginary".