He has had a hand in the financial rescue of Pakistan and in helping Egypt keep its economy on solid footing amid political upheaval.
In the face of the global economic crisis that began in 2008, Strauss-Kahn persuaded rich countries such as the United States to dramatically increase their funding commitments to the IMF, enabling the organization to take on a far more ambitious role in staving off financial crises. He has also pushed for the IMF to help be a worldwide monitor for emerging financial threats, asking to collect more information from domestic banks.
Those efforts have won broad praise.
“He moved decisively and showed considerable leadership in trying to get the fund to move as quickly as it could to respond to developing country needs in the wake of the crisis,” said Ngaire Woods, director of the Global Economic Governance Program at the University of Oxford who has studied the IMF for more than two decades. She added that Strauss-Kahn and his senior managers “were really pushing hard to try to create new facilities that would support countries trying to absorb the impact of the crisis.”
Strauss-Kahn has also won credit for pushing to expand the role of non-Western countries in the IMF, despite his Eurocentric background. He has hailed China’s status as a growth leader while mildly urging the country to allow its currency to rise in value, making it easier for the United States and European economies to export into China.
Still, Strauss-Kahn’s professional successes have long stood in stark contrast to his personal foibles.
In 1997, France’s prime minister, Lionel Jospin, appointed Strauss-Kahn as his finance minister, one of the most powerful positions in the government. But two years later Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign the post amid a fraud scandal in which he was accused of charging for consulting work he never did while working as a corporate lawyer. He was cleared of wrongdoing and won reelection to Parliament.
In 2008, while head of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn had an affair with a division chief at the organization. An outside investigation cleared him of abuse-of-power accusations, and the IMF’s board called his actions “regrettable” but unanimously agreed that he should keep his job.
Strauss-Kahn is in his third marriage, to French journalist Anne Sinclair. On Sunday she expressed disbelief that her husband could have done what he is accused of and called on all to exercise “decency and restraint.”
“I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband,” she said in a statement relayed by Agence France-Presse. “I have no doubt his innocence will be established.”
The incident occurred early Saturday afternoon, police said.
The 32-year-old housekeeper told police she was planning to clean the spacious suite, which she thought was empty, when Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked. He chased her and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her, the woman told police. She said she fought him off, but he dragged her into the bathroom, according to the account. The woman eventually broke free and alerted hotel staff, who called police.
Police officials said Strauss-Kahn fled the room, leaving his cellphone behind. He later called the hotel to ask if he had left his phone, a police official said, and an employee asked for his location in order to return it. That led authorities to JFK International Airport, where they arrested Strauss-Kahn, who was on a plane bound for France, the official said. Officers with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey boarded the plane and removed him moments before he was to fly to Paris.
No one answered the door at the couple’s brick rowhouse in Georgetown, where Strauss-Kahn lived with Sinclair when in Washington. A neighbor said he had seen no activity at the house over the weekend.
Staff writers Steve Hendrix, Jason Horowitz, Howard Schneider and Josh White in Washington contributed to this report.