(Adds details on Banon complaint from sixth paragraph.)
July 8 (Bloomberg) -- The Paris prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation today into an attempted rape complaint by a French writer against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
The prosecutor will seek to determine whether there are grounds for a full criminal probe into Tristane Banon’s claims the former International Monetary Fund chief assaulted her in 2003 when she went to interview him, according to spokeswoman Agnes Labregere-Delorme.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, stepped down from the IMF after being charged with sexually assaulting a maid at a New York hotel in May. He was released last week from home confinement and had his bail returned after U.S. prosecutors uncovered evidence the 32- year-old woman who accused him had lied about key aspects of her life. Strauss-Kahn denies the claims in both cases.
Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn in France didn’t immediately return calls for comment. He has called Banon’s claims “imaginary” and asked that a slander complaint against Banon be prepared, according to a July 5 statement by his lawyers.
Banon was an intern with magazine Paris Match in 2003 and had just signed a contract for a book on politicians’ regrets. She met Strauss-Kahn in February for a follow-up interview at his friend’s apartment in Paris, she said in an interview published in the July 6 issue of L’Express.
Strauss-Kahn turned off her tape-recorder and began assaulting her, touching her breasts and putting his hands in her mouth and underwear, she said, according to the magazine. She kicked him and said “you’re not going to rape me,” then ran out, got in her car and called her mother, the magazine quoted her as saying.
Banon’s lawyer, David Koubbi, didn’t immediately return calls for comment on the opening of the preliminary investigation. Prosecutors received Banon’s complaint on July 6.
Attempted rape and rape have a statute of limitation of 10 years in France, while sexual assault has a three-year limit.
The prosecutor will try to substantiate the allegations in the complaint before deciding whether to dismiss it or refer it to an investigating judge for a full inquiry. In the New York case, the maid’s complaint and information that Strauss-Kahn was already on a Europe-bound flight prompted his immediate arrest.
‘Very, Very Fast’
“In the U.S., things went very, very fast,” said Thomas Morin, a Paris-based lawyer with Linklaters LLP. “In France, once a complaint is filed by a victim, things go much less fast” from the time a complaint is filed to when charges are brought as the first step is to substantiate the alleged incident.
French investigations focus on the alleged incident rather than the victim’s veracity on other points, Morin said. In New York, the maid lied or didn’t volunteer information on other aspects of her life including the circumstances of her immigration from Guinea and her bank and telephone accounts, undermining the investigation there in ways that wouldn’t affect a French probe, he said.
In France, “the investigation would focus on the facts of the rape, not about ancillary aspects of the victim’s life,” said Morin. “It doesn’t change anything if there is material proof.”
--Editors: Christopher Scinta, Vidya Root
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