Whilst Turkey recently witnessed its very own “pre-general election video affair” targeting personalities of the opposition, last week’s news from across the Atlantic was even more surprising. The address I use in this column’s title, of course, refers to the New York City hotel where the former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is alleged to have been engaged in an unlawful act of a sexual nature.
As the investigation is ongoing I prefer to refrain from making any suggestions about what could have really happened in a suite on the 28th floor on the premises of a French-owned luxury hotel. There are, however, a number of rather odd details and fringe events that occurred with regard to the arrest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn which merit closer inspection, not just from the perspective of analyzing the IMF but valid for any country involved in international finance and politics.
Let me begin by saying I was and still am utterly amazed by the eerie silence that emanated from IMF headquarters. When a diplomat (or someone with partial diplomatic immunity whenever on official business) is in legal trouble, under normal circumstances, the international body in question would jump to the rescue or at least verbally support its staff. It does not appear to be the case for DSK, as Mr. Strauss-Kahn is often referred to by his supporters in his native France. Even more puzzling, as official business does not begin only when a representative arrives in the meeting room in a far-away country but the moment he leaves home, the journey to another country is to be regarded as official business, including being insured against accidents, etc. Mr. Strauss-Kahn was on his way to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel; hence it has to be assumed that the moment he left the Sofitel his diplomatic immunity status was reinstated after a weekend off work. Apparently not, according to the IMF.
Likewise totally incomprehensible is that not a single IMF donor country issued an official statement in support of Mr. Strauss-Kahn except for extremely lukewarm comments made by Paris that caution should be exercised before coming to conclusions. I am not saying the statement should have read “DSK is innocent,” but it was should have read “DSK is innocent until proven guilty.”To continue, are the IMF and the World Bank not supposed to be key financial institutions of global relevance and in particular of concern to the United States both by history and volume of financial contributions? Had Mr. Strauss-Kahn been elected against the consent of Washington? Of course not. The current formula of nominating a US citizen to lead the World Bank and a European national to head the IMF, at least until very recently, had worked out well, although emerging countries now justifiably demand to have more of a say in who manages these institutions. But why was there not a single supportive statement made by Washington except for asking DSK to resign? Had he perhaps become too heavy of a political ballast, too hot to handle?
Bail was refused once, then granted on Thursday after his formal indictment. Now Mr. Strauss-Kahn will work on proving his innocence (as according to his own words this is how he interprets the events). What is certain, though, is even if on June 6 the trial is thrown out, which appears to be unlikely due to the rather extended nature of expected court proceedings and may therefore take many months, Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s career as a banker to the world as well as his presidential aspirations are history. With all required objectivity I would sum up the events as follows: If DSK is found guilty because he is guilty, the American justice system will come out on top and rightly so. However, if he is not only found to be not guilty but indeed is not guilty, everything changes, and France’s political landscape will be turned upside down. As politicians are living on time borrowed from the electorate, it may make sense to “just this once” ask questions about who would benefit the most once DSK has left center stage. As by the time this column goes to print DSK is expected to move into his daughter’s home on Manhattan’s Upper West side, he may consider not only wearing an electronic tag but employing a bodyguard, too.