Twist of fate as DSK prepares to face trial for 'pimping'
Francois Hollande will hold his annual press conference this week under the brilliant chandeliers of the Elysee Palace, buoyed by his near-faultless handling of the political fallout of last month's Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris.
Meanwhile, an hour's train ride away, one man will be sitting in court reflecting that, but for a twist of fate, he, not Mr Hollande, a fellow Socialist, could have been the French president fielding questions on foreign policy and economics.
Instead, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the one-time runaway favourite to become France's father of the nation, will be fighting to stay out of jail on charges of pimping and organising orgies with prostitutes that have been dubbed "carnage on a pile of mattresses".
The 65-year-old's presidential prospects and high-flying career at the head of the International Monetary Fund ended in May 2011 when Nafissatou Diallo, a chambermaid at a New York hotel, accused him of sexual assault.
After his arrest and brief stay in the notorious Riker's Island prison, criminal charges were later dropped and the case settled in a civil suit for an undisclosed sum, reported to be €1.3m.
But DSK - as he is known in France - was soon embroiled in another scandal back home, once again involving his sexual proclivities, this time regarding a prostitution ring in northern France and Belgium.
The former economics professor, who denies any wrongdoing, had hoped the case would be quashed early on after the prosecution argued there was insufficient evidence.
But for the next three weeks, a court in Lille, northern France, will examine whether he is guilty of "pimping in an organised group", which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a €1.5m fine.
Mr Strauss-Kahn will stand trial alongside 13 co-defendants including businessmen, a lawyer and a former police chief. During the trial over the "Carlton affair", named after the hotel in Lille said to have housed sex parties with prostitutes, the judge must decide whether DSK was merely a "libertine" who took part in orgies or whether he was aware the women were paid prostitutes.
While his lawyers have argued he had no idea who the women he was dealing with were as "they were all naked at the time", investigating magistrates contend their age and appearance "left little doubt as to their activities", and that DSK was not just the "king of the party" but a "linchpin" of a prostitution ring.
Mr Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Richard Malka, has branded the case a "relentless" and "absurd witch hunt", saying that the decision to go trial was based on "ideological, political, moral" considerations but certainly not "judicial" ones.
The defence is expected to argue that the case has been hijacked by civil plaintiffs bent on abolishing prostitution, which is legal in France. (© Daily Telegraph, London)