Prosecutors said the 62-year-old former Socialist finance minister and one-time presidential favourite had been released on 100,000 euros ($135,000) bail after the charges on "aggravated pimping as part of an organised gang".
Strauss-Kahn was called in by investigating magistrates in the northern French city of Lille two days earlier than expected and charged with an offence that could carry 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
"He firmly declares that he is not guilty of these acts and never had the least inkling that the women he met could have been prostitutes," said Richard Malka, one of Strauss-Kahn's counsel.
"Dominique Strauss-Kahn was placed under judicial control and was forbidden from contacting defendants, civil plaintiffs, witnesses and the press regarding the procedures," prosecutors said in a statement.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers immediately said they would appeal the charge.
"It goes without saying that we will ask for the cancellation of this decision," said one of his lawyers, Henri Leclerc.
Strauss-Kahn "has never broken the law," Malka said. "Through this prosecution they are trying to create a new crime punishing clients of prostitution where the law does not provide for this."
He also suggested that Strauss-Kahn was being pursued because of his high profile and links to France's Socialist party in the midst of a heated campaign for France's April-May presidential election.
"As a result of behaviour that is purely his own business, Mr. Strauss-Kahn has found himself -- largely because of his fame -- thrown to the wolves, by coincidence less than a month before a major election," Malka said.
Strauss-Kahn's name came up as police were investigating a pimping operation that saw sex workers from brothels over the Belgian border being brought to France for orgies in high-class hotels in Lille and Paris.
Strauss-Kahn admits that he took part in some of these parties, one of which was said to involve women being flown to Washington to entertain him while he was still managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
But, through his lawyers, he has denied knowing the escorts were paid.
Using prostitutes is not illegal in France, but prosecutors are seeking proof that Strauss-Kahn was aware the parties were arranged by an organised pimping ring and paid for by other guests misusing company funds.
Several Lille-based businessmen and policemen have been accused of taking part in the ring. Strauss-Kahn told police he did not suspect the women were prostitutes because he was introduced to them by senior police officers.
Strauss-Kahn's lawyers will also be in court on Wednesday in New York for the first hearing in a civil case brought against him by Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid who alleges he sexually assaulted her.
Judge Douglas McKeon will be asked to rule on a motion by Strauss-Kahn's lawyers urging him to dismiss the case on the grounds that, at the time of the alleged attack in May last year, their client had diplomatic immunity.
McKeon has said he will give a written judgment on whether the case can go forward within a few weeks. If he accepts the motion, Strauss-Kahn's US legal woes may be over. If not, Diallo's case for damages will go forward.
These two cases are the most serious threats facing Strauss-Kahn after the dismissal of two earlier criminal investigations that were brought against him in the United States and in France after his spectacular fall from grace.
First, criminal charges relating to 32-year-old Diallo's complaint that Strauss-Kahn attacked her in his suite in a New York Sofitel hotel on May 15 were dropped after prosecutors came to doubt the reliability of her testimony.
After that case fell apart, Strauss-Kahn, who had resigned from his post at the IMF in Washington, returned to France, only to face an accusation from 32-year-old author Tristane Banon that he had tried to rape her in 2002.
French investigating magistrates questioned Strauss-Kahn and his accuser and concluded that, while there was prima facie evidence of a sexual assault, the alleged attack had occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.
Strauss-Kahn admits having a "sexual encounter" with Diallo during the nine minutes she spent in his suite, and told French police that he had tried to kiss Banon, but strenuously denies he used violence in either case.
Until the scandals erupted, Strauss-Kahn was considered the favourite to become the Socialist Party's presidential candidate and the frontrunner to defeat incumbent right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in next month's election. (AFP)
<관련 한글 기사>
정신 못차린 IMF 前총재, 이번엔 매춘혐의
성추문으로 사임한 도미니크 스트로스-칸 전 국제통화기금(IMF) 총재가 26일 매춘 조직 연루혐의로 기소됐다.
검찰은 프랑스 사회당 출신으로 전 재무장관이자 한때 유력한 대통령 선거 후보 로 거론되던 스트로스-칸 전 총재를 기소했으며, 그는 기소된 후 10만유로(한화 약 1억5천만원)의 보석금을 내고 석방됐다.
스트로스-칸 전 총재는 프랑스 북부 릴의 예심판사들에 의해 기소됐으며, 유죄가 확정되면 최고 20년형을 받을 수 있다.
스트로스-칸의 변호사인 리샤르 말카는 "그는 자신이 만났던 여성들이 매춘부들 인지 알지 못했다"며 그의 무죄를 주장했다.
경찰은 벨기에-프랑스 국경지역의 젊은 여성들을 릴, 파리 등의 고급 호텔에 보 내 매춘 행위를 하도록 한 범죄 조직을 수사하면서 스트로스-칸 전 총재의 연루 혐의를 포착했다고 주장했다.
이 범죄 조직에는 릴 지역의 기업가, 경찰 등이 연루된 것으로 알려졌다.
변호사들은 스트로스-칸이 몇몇 파티에 참석해 여성들을 소개받은 것은 사실이지만 고위 경찰 간부로부터 이 여성들을 소개받았기 때문에 매춘 등에 대해서는 몰 랐다고 말했다.
변호사들은 프랑스에서 매춘여성들과 돈을 주고 성관계를 갖는 것은 불법이 아니며 매춘여성의 고객을 처벌할 수 있는 법적 근거가 없다며, 경찰이 스트로스-칸 전 총재를 기소한 것은 다음달 대선을 앞두고, 사회당에 타격을 주기 위한 것이라고 주장했다.
스트로스-칸 전 총재는 미국 뉴욕 소재 호텔의 청소원 나피사투 디알로와의 성추문으로 IMF에서 퇴임하기 전까지 사회당의 유력한 대선 후보로 꼽혔다.
이와함께 스트로스-칸의 변호사들은 28일 뉴욕 법원에 디알로가 손해배상을 요구하며 제기한 민사소송 재판에 출석할 예정이다.
변호사들은 사건이 발생했던 지난해 5월 당시 스트로스-칸 전 총재가 외교적 면 책특권을 갖고 있었다는 이유로 디알로의 손배소를 기각해줄 것을 요청할 예정이다.
뉴욕 법원이 변호사들의 요구를 받아들이면 스트로스-칸과 디알로가 관련된 미 국 내 모든 재판이 종결되며, 그렇지 않으면 디알로의 민사소송이 지속되게 된다.
디알로는 스트로스-칸이 호텔방에서 자신을 성폭행했다고 주장했으나, 스트로스 -칸은 성관계는 인정하나 강제성은 없었다고 반박했으며, 검찰은 결국 이 사건에 대해 기소를 취하했다. (연합뉴스)