PARIS (AFP) - Disgraced ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn suspected a smartphone that disappeared before his New York arrest on sex assault charges had been hacked, associates said, and hinted at a setup.
Sources close to Strauss-Kahn told AFP on Saturday that he had called his wife Anne Sinclair while making his way to the airport to return to France on May 14 to tell her that "something serious" had happened -- referring to the suspected hacking of his International Monetary Fund-issued BlackBerry.
Ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (AP-Yonhap News)
He had been warned by a "friend" that morning that a message he sent to Sinclair had been read at the offices of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, added sources quoted for an article to be published in the New York Review of Books.
Strauss-Kahn, then tipped to beat Sarkozy in France's 2012 presidential elections, was taken off the plane to Paris that afternoon following a complaint by hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo that he had attacked her.
The phone, which disappeared on the day of the arrest, "was never found", a Strauss-Kahn associate told AFP.
The politician apparently noticed the device was missing while having lunch with his daughter in New York before heading for the airport.
The New York Review of Books article has associates hinting that Strauss-Kahn may have been set up in order to discredit him ahead of the polls.
It describes camera footage showing an employee of the Sofitel hotel, where the sexual encounter was alleged to have taken place in Strauss-Kahn's room, high-fiving a colleague and appearing to perform a celebratory dance after listening to Diallo's testimony.
Edward Epstein, author of the article, told AFP: "I didn't say it was a political conspiracy but I would say that people wanted to find evidence of an indiscretion of his that could derail either his candidacy or even (his work
at) the IMF."
Epstein said surveillance video reveals that "no one was watching" Diallo after the alleged attack -- "there was no doctor, no nurse, the manager didn't come in and didn't speak to her."
"She was in the hands of two or three of the security people. There was another housekeeper sitting there with her, but other than that she was left completely alone, she was neglected," Epstein said.
Charges against Strauss-Kahn were dropped after prosecutors said Diallo had lied about details of her allegations, although evidence showed that some sort of hurried sexual encounter did occur.
Strauss-Kahn resigned as IMF head as a result of the scandal which also left his domestic political career in tatters. Since returning home, he has faced new allegations of sexual misconduct in France.
"We cannot now exclude the likelihood that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the target of a deliberate effort to destroy him as a political force," one of the politician's lawyers, William Taylor, said in a statement.
But UMP secretary general Jean-Francois Cope dismissed the idea of a plot as "absolutely ridiculous", alleging it had been cooked up to dent Sarkozy's chances of winning the election.
"I would like to see the evidence if it exists," he told France's TF1 television.
Douglas Wigdor, a lawyer for the maid who has launched a civil suit against Strauss-Kahn in New York, said: "It is beyond preposterous and irresponsible to say that Ms Diallo is part of some governmental conspiracy to set up DSK."
Sources close to the case told AFP in July that the French presidency had been tipped off about Strauss-Kahn's pending arrest by Accor, the group that owns the Sofitel hotel, which has denied this.
The presidency declined to comment on Friday.
"A trap? It's possible. A plot? We'll see," Strauss-Kahn had told French television in September.
스트로스 칸 변호인 "성추문 의혹은 정치적 음모"
도미니크 스트로스 칸 전(前) 국제통화기금(IMF) 총재의 변호인은 25일(현지시간) 스트로스 칸의 성추문 의혹 이면에 그를 무너뜨리기 위한 정치적 음모가 있을 수 있다고 주장했다.
스트로스 칸의 변호인 윌리엄 테일러는 이날 성명을 내고, 미국의 한 잡지를 통 해 곧 공개될 폭로 기사를 언급하며 "스트로스 칸이 자신을 정치적 맞수로 여겨 무 너뜨리려는 세력의 의도적인 목표물이었을 가능성을 배제할 수 없다"고 말했다.
미국의 폭로전문 기자인 에드워드 제이 엡스타인이 작성해 잡지 '뉴욕 리뷰 오 브 북스'를 통해 26일 공개될 이 기사는 스트로스 칸이 성폭행 혐의로 체포된 호텔 인 뉴욕 소피텔의 카드식 열쇠와 그 밖의 다른 기록들을 분석했다.
이 기사는 특히 스트로스 칸이 분실한 블랙베리 휴대전화가 그의 정치적 경쟁자 들로부터 해킹당했을 가능성에 의문을 제기한다.
스트로스 칸과 가까운 익명의 소식통들의 말에 따르면 그가 체포되던 당일, 휴 대전화를 분실하기 전 부인에게 보냈던 이메일이 프랑스의 집권 여당인 대중운동연 합(UMP)의 사무실에서 읽혔다는 내용의 경고 문자메시지를 받았다는 것이다.
이 기사는 또 소피텔에서 일하는 한 기술자가 피해 여종업원 옆에서 축하의 뜻 으로 춤을 추고 다른 남성과 하이파이브를 하는 모습이 보안카메라에 잡혔다면서 "
호텔 직원들의 행동에 심각한 의문을 제기한다"고 밝히고 있다.
이에 대해 테일러는 "소피텔과 이 호텔 소유사인 아코르 그룹 측이 나서서 이러 한 의문점에 대해 모두 해명할 것을 요구한다"고 말했다.
그러자 피해 여종업원 측 변호인은 즉각 대응에 나섰다.
피해 여성 디알로의 미국 변호인인 더글러스 위그도어는 "그녀가 스트로스 칸을 함정에 빠뜨리려는 정부의 음모에 가담했다는 주장은 터무니없고 무책임한 정도를 넘어선 것"이라고 강하게 반발했다.