Strauss-Kahn hidden inside New York safe house

Reuters News
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Posted: May 21, 2011 11:38 AM
Strauss-Kahn hidden inside New York safe house

By Michelle Nichols and Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn spent his first night out of jail since his arrest on attempted rape charges, inside a Manhattan safe house on Saturday, well-hidden from the media gathered outside.

Held under round-the-clock armed guard after being freed on bail on Friday, Strauss-Kahn, 62, was expected to stay in the apartment in New York's financial district for a few days until a more permanent home can be found for him during what are likely to be lengthy legal proceedings.

Strauss-Kahn, charged with trying to rape a hotel maid on May 14, ran into trouble finding housing when an apartment on the city's Upper East Side leased by his wife was besieged by the media, and the deal fell through.

His temporary housing was arranged by a private security company that is keeping him under armed guard and electronic monitoring as conditions of his bail. Prosecutors estimated the cost at $200,000 a month, which he is responsible for paying.

Television satellite trucks lined the block outside the apartment, with more than a dozen television cameras in position. Scores of reporters and photographers waited for a glimpse of the man who was just days ago one of the most powerful economic figures in the world.

He is allowed to leave the apartment only to travel within Manhattan for court appearances, meetings with his lawyers, medical appointments and a weekly religious observance.

Once a strong contender to be the next president of France, Strauss-Kahn resigned as head of the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday. He denies the sexual assault charges and has vowed to prove his innocence.

His legal team has informally sought public relations advice from a Washington consulting firm, TD International, run by former CIA officers and U.S. diplomats. A source said if the firm becomes formally involved, its role will be in helping the Strauss-Kahn team engage in crisis management.

CAMPAIGN FOR IMF TOP JOB

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was seen as the leading contender to succeed Strauss-Kahn in the top job in global finance.

Supported in many of Europe's capitals, she has been praised for her role in tackling the European debt crisis, with France this year chairing the Group of 20, in handling the demands of advanced and developing economies.

But developing countries, with growing clout in the world economy, were keeping pressure on Europe and the United States to avoid a backroom deal over the appointment.

The IMF has been run by a European ever since it was created at the end of World War Two.

Lagarde, who headed U.S. law firm Baker & McKenzie in Chicago before joining the French government in 2005, would be the first woman to head the IMF.

Asian, Middle Eastern and African diplomats at the IMF headquarters in Washington said emerging nations were seeking a consensus candidate. That task was made harder when former Turkish economy minister Kemal Dervis, seen as the front-runner among potential non-European contenders, ruled himself out.

The IMF board said on Friday the process for finding its new chief would be completed by June 30. With the euro zone debt crisis still far from under control, European and U.S. officials want to move quickly.

Strauss-Kahn's arraignment hearing is set for June 6, when he will formally answer the charges. A trial may be six months or more away. If convicted, he could face 25 years in prison.

Defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman has said the evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter."

Prosecutor John McConnell has said the maid, a 32-year-old from Guinea, told a "compelling and unwavering story."

(Additional reporting by Jessica Rinaldi, Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Christopher Wilson)