REPORTING FROM PARIS -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, is being held for questioning by French police investigating an alleged prostitution ring.
The 62-year-old socialist politician turned himself in at 8:55 a.m. Tuesday in the northern French city of Lille. He is being held in connection with allegations that he was involved in the procuring of prostitutes and that he benefited from embezzlement.
Strauss-Kahn, a former French presidential hopeful, arrived at the city's police station in a limousine and was quickly surrounded by photographers.
Authorities say they want to ascertain whether Strauss-Kahn knew women he allegedly had sex with at "swingers" parties in Paris and Washington were prostitutes and if he was aware they were paid from the corporate funds of a major French construction company.
Strauss-Kahn can be held for up to 96 hours; police said a decision on whether to put him under formal investigation, the equivalent of being charged, is likely to be made within 48 hours, at which point he might be released.
A total of eight people, including two Lille businessmen with links to Strauss-Kahn, and a police commissioner, have already been arrested in connection with the case, known as "The Carlton Affair," after the luxury Lille hotel where the alleged prostitution network was said to be based.
Paying for prostitutes is not illegal in France but procuring them for another and using company funds to pay for them could lead to charges.
Strauss-Kahn has insisted he never knew the women were prostitutes and has denied any wrongdoing. He has described the claims as "malevolent insinuations.”
In May last year, Strauss-Kahn was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting chambermaid Nafissatou Diallo in the Sofitel Hotel in New York. Strauss-Kahn claimed that the sex was consensual and involved no violence. The case against him crumbled over concerns about the maid's credibility.
Last October, French prosecutors also dismissed a 32-year-old French writer's claim that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her during an interview in 2003. Officials said the statute of limitations for pursuing the case had passed.
[For the record, 10:41 a.m. Feb. 21: An earlier version of this post said a 23-year-old French writer had claimed claim that Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her. The woman is 32 years old, not 23.]
[For the record, 11:30 a.m. Feb. 21: An earlier version of this post said Strauss-Kahn could be held up to 48 hours. He could be held for up to 96 hours. However, police said a decision on whether to put him under formal investigation, the equivalent of being charged, is likely to be made within 48 hours, at which point he might be released. Also, the post incorrectly spelled the first name of Strauss-Kahn's New York accuser as Naffisatou. Her name is Nafissatou.]
-- Kim Willsher