STRAUSS-KAHN:’NOT A SEX-STING, BUT A BLACK OPS PHONE-HACK’.

J’accuse!

Over the last three days, there has been more than enough reportage of events in and around Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s malign treatment in New York, and the minute dissection of what happened from one minute to the next – from a sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo, all the way through to his return to France with rape charges against him dropped. In this piece, The Slog focuses on what may have been ‘mistaken identity’ in relation to the entire operation against DSK.

Does Dominique Strauss-Kahn know exactly when he lost his Blackberry on the fateful day of his encounter with Nafissatou Diallo? We know that he first missed it after lunch with his daughter. And we know that the daughter – almost literally – ransacked the restaurant trying to find it. But to this date, it is still missing.

Over the last two days, I’ve been putting together views and testimony from those involved across three continents. Towards the end of the US part of the saga, I confess that I was coming round to the view that while there were some lessons for US justice to learn – and the Sofitel maid herself (plus her brother) were talking things up well beyond the truth) – a lot of the events seemed too random for there to have been an organised sex-sting against the IMF boss.

The assumption all along was of a sex set-up. But the new evidence (a lot of which, by the way, is hearsay and supposition) points more towards a hacking operation about which DSK had been tipped off. The fact that he was in New York when he found out (having already become suspicious) is probably irrelevant: what does however seem very likely is that the phone was being hacked by French security and/or the UMP.

Nafissatou Diallo continues to press her civil case against Strauss-Kahn today, much to his irritation. I cannot believe that a woman employed as a temptress – when the hour of need for her ‘employers’ to embarrass DSK had long since passed – would continue to press charges. She may well still be motivated by money – but if American intelligence was running her, she’d have been paid off long ago….or disappeared. And anyway, I doubt the CIA would employ such a loose cannon.

I think that the maid may well have blundered into (or been co-opted into) an attempt to steal DSK’s phone.

If you’re a political spook and you intercept a call suggesting you’ve been rumbled (and the phone is going away for analysis) then the first priority becomes getting hold of the phone and destroying it.

Telephone records at the time confirm what DSK said: that he had phoned his wife Anne-Sinclair in Paris earlier that day, and asked her to have analysts lined up to check his phone. A diplomat had allegedly told him that calls to Ms Sinclair had been seen in Elysees Palace intelligence records. Further, we already know that (a) the Elysees Palace knew within ten minutes of the IMF boss’s arrest that he was in custody; and (b) several calls were exchanged between the Sofitel and its owners in France on the subject of DSK’s discomfiture.

Sofitel is owned by a French group with some political connections, but nothing you’d call conclusive. However, phone (and now video) evidence has suggested that the staff were somehow involved in keeping the Elysees at the very least informed. It remains possible that Nafissatou Diallo spent a suspicious amount of time hanging around the area close to his suite as part of an amateur surveillance role. What has always struck me as odd, however, is a maid coming to clean a room on the last day of a guest’s stay….when he’s about to leave anyway. The same is true of another player who has now appeared from nowhere: Syed Haque, a hotel waiter, entered DSK’s room just two minutes before Diallo did. A bright spotlight of suspicion now falls on this man, who has – for no apparent reason – run scared from being interviewed by lawyers acting for Strauss-Kahn.

There is a real possibility that Diallo’s role was to distract DSK while Haque (ironic name) pilfered the evidence of a plot against the Frenchman: his Blackberry.

Is there anything else that might support this speculation in particular, and a botched French operation in general?

Well, equally intriguing is the story of two of Haque’s hotel bosses allegedly on video “high-fiving each other and doing what looks like an extraordinary dance of celebration lasting some three minutes”. I’ve yet to establish the tape’s existence or the identity of the ‘bosses’, but two senior managers celebrating a guest’s demise while being in constant touch with French politicians/spooks would look very odd indeed….if proven.

“It looks to us like Syed Haque holds some of the answers to this,” a DSK supporter told me on Saturday, adding, “Dominique didn’t use the IMF Blackberry at all between ringing Anne first thing,  and leaving the restaurant where he had lunch with his daughter. The device was obviously stolen.”

I’d love to pen the headline ‘Slog solves DSK riddle’, but I’m nowhere near that at the moment. I have revisited the original New York financial district contact (who had doubts from Day One about the arrest) and that person finds the theft motive compelling…but remains convinced that the US was involved in some form.

“I think if the French were into phone-hacking for purely domestic political reasons, then I think that makes sense,” the informant told me, “but some big hitters in the US cottoned on pretty fast to the existence of something or other. And Vance kept on delaying things while he looked into what was going on”.

New York DA Cyrus T. Vance did, it’s true, delay DSK’s return to France for no reason as yet apparent. But another NYC source in turn sticks to his belief that the NYPD ,Vance and the FBI were looking for some kind of sting against DSK throughout that period:

“At first they [the DA's office] were full of it,” says the informant, “but then it all started to go wrong. Next thing we know, you can’t get anything out of these guys. There’s a lot of burrowing, and the Feds are everywhere. Then the whole thing is dropped. It was obvious something they didn’t want to talk about had come to light”.

You may have noticed thus far the regular use of the word ‘obvious’ in all this. But then, some things look obvious and turn out to be something completely different – as this case seems to have revealed over the last four days. By this time, Geithner was involved – whether directly or in the background is hard to say – but he was quick to insist that the waters should close over the IMF Chief. Most observers find it odd that the Federal Reserve Secretary intervened in this manner. As my long-time (and much trusted) Washington mole concludes:

“I think it’s highly likely that there was a desire by us and the French to get Strauss-Kahn out of the IMF game and French politics respectively. I never thought Diallo made any sense as an agent, but the Blackberry theft rings true for me. The French tapped his phone, screwed up, then got lucky. So we got lucky too – and made the most of it”.

This seems a reasonable summation as far as it goes: but as I posted exclusively earlier this year, there is evidence that both Nicolas Sarkozy and the US had Christine Lagarde lined up for the IMF job (and gave her all the help they could to get it) long before DSK’s arrest and subsequent disgrace. This doesn’t prove they were involved in the events at the Sofitel, but the intent is there.

Meanwhile, in Paris this morning the allegations get wilder still from the DSK camp. My informant is, to be honest, on the outer fringes of the Strauss-Kahn supporters club, but he remains firm about black ops against his hero:

“You will have noticed that [DSK] has started a civil suit against the prostitute ring story. He still maintains that most of it was made up and planted by the Elysees. There are also trails leading back to Berlin. There’s a lot more to come out yet.”

We shall see.

Follow the whole saga at The Slog’s designated Page

 

63 thoughts on “STRAUSS-KAHN:’NOT A SEX-STING, BUT A BLACK OPS PHONE-HACK’.

  1. I personally think we will be looking at major cover-ups and payoffs to keep quiet, the guilty have a habit of walking away uscathed, Teflon Tony was the best at that no doubt..

  2. “Federal Reserve Secretary” is a newly created position by J.W.. Geithner is the U.S. Treasury Secretary, a cabinet post. I believe this is the second occasion when you have moved him back to the Fed from Treasury.

    • It’s the third or fourth time but only the second time it has been remarked upon. It does tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

    • Robbie and old Asia
      I do apologise for this. It must be some kind of tic. It is like some uses of le and la in French: fluent on not in American politics, I can never remember.

  3. “Federal Reserve Secretary” s/b Secretary of Treasury ?

    Pres NY Fed was his previous job – I hope he’s not moonlighting and forgetting to pay his taxes, again :)

    I still think its a UMP sting, to get him out of the race for french prez. Its entirely predictable that Sarkozy and Geither would discuss DSKs replacement at the IMF well in advance of his NYC visit, because he was going anyway – to run for prez of france. And its no surprise that they agreed on Legarde given her credentials – Sarko’s Finance Minister, her work at Baker & McKenzie. It also placed her somewhat beyond the reach of the French gendarmes over whatever shenanigans she’s facing.

    I think everything that might have been on his Blackberry (phone numbers, emails, messages etc) would also be on the RIM servers, hard to believe that the NSA hasn’t got access to that kit including the encryption keys

    I worked with B&M on a due diligence task – sharp dudes.

    • I also would find it hard to believe that they don’t have access the the Blackberry stuff but, there again it’s possible they haven’t, that’s why they needed to get the phone…Now what would be interesting is: What if DSK genuinely lost the phone in the restaurant or close by and it was picked up ny somebody who knew whose phone it was and they are waiting for a definitive moment to put the cat amongst the pidgeons!
      Pure fantasy on my behalf but, would make a good yarn!

  4. there’s a slight dog (and bone)”that” didn’t bark” aspect to the phone isn’t there? If the French had lifted it, wouldn’t there have been more than one phone call etc noticed by informant at elysee, – there would have been reams and reams of sound files and transcripts of stuff gleefully finding its way into the press. – The lack of any of this rather suggests that the French didn’t get it….? if so, they would surely have wanted it, it could be like you say that the whole thing was arranged by them to get hold of it. So….maybe the Americans were following the operation against DSK, not for or against it per se, seething but pretending not to be aware… and knowing it was pretty relevant to their interests. Maybe they then watched with horreur as a French operation, not just in their back-yard but on their own front-lawn, went spectacularly poivre-shaped..not exactly something that any service wants public, let alone the USA, with the French (comme toujours) spying on allied turf. The lack of anything from the blackberry at the centre of all this might suggest that someone prevented the French from getting it, or ‘relieved’ them of it soon after they had, and for deniability purposes have effectively permanently lost it.
    - If all (or just half) of this was going on, I haven’t read anything of diplomats being asked to leave, tit for tat expulsions, heated protests at spying ops on american soil, ‘advisors’ leaving posts early etc….remarkably restrained for the Americans, who then it would seem casually allowed the French to choose the next IMF leader for them. Either their spies have become remarkably philosophical, shrugging their shoulders and smiling indulgently…or they got their own back and saved face in some other way.

  5. Lagarde has certainly done her best to protect bankers interests in Europe by forcing the costs onto it’s citizens. She seems to be trying desperately to stop contagion spreading to the French banks from the PIIGS, she was the French finance minister after all & close to Sarkozy. I wonder what DSK would have done differently, the pair of them sounded good in the film “Iinside Job”, but Lagarde since getting the big job, seems to have changed her tune.

    • “I wonder what DSK would have done differently”

      We know the answer to that. Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF, wrote an article on it. DSK was headed to Germany to hand Merkle an IMF proposition that would have (in Johnson’s estimation) toppled both the German and French governments. In 2004 the IMF had used a radically different type of bailout in Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, one the stimulated the economies instead of austerity. DSK had gotten the votes at the IMF to offer the same package to Greece just two days earlier. According to Johnson, Merkle and Sarkozy would have had to raise taxes or print an inflationary amount of money for that plan. Johnson thinks DKS was purposefully seeking to topple both governments.

  6. John: Good work. I guess we will never know the whole truth but we know it lies somewhere amongst all these players named and the official line is bunkum. The moment the news flashed across my computer on a Sunday afternoon in Manila I said set up, by party or parties unknown, and I have never wavered in that belief.

  7. An economist contact of mine in Paris told me that Lagarde, when she was French Finance Minister was actually unaware of the true indebtedness on the major French banks and the true profundity of the Greek debt and the impossibility of its repayment. She only learned about the latter when she took up the IMF post and the former when the rumour was whispered in her ear, after she had left France.

    He also told me years ago, during the big heatwave in France some years ago when thousands of pensioners died during August, when all the France politicians and hospital doctors were on holiday, that the running total death count was a load of bollox. He then gave me true figure and the projected final one based on longterm weather forecasts. He was well within a good margin of error.

    But, what do I know, I’m only a Panda.

    • Even though you are only a Panda, I have no desire to bugger you.
      As OAH says, the sit/stand thing applies.
      She is a classic example of a 161 IQ borderline genius and first class lawyer who knows half of thruppence about money.
      Westminster is stuffed full of them.

      • Did DSK know anything about money, or Wolfowitz @ World Bank – if you want a meritocracy there’s no point looking for it in the Atlantic Basin, try the Pacific Basin.

  8. It may have been a conspiracy, & it may not, but what struck me about the affair, was the reaction of the french media when DSK came out with handcuffs on, with an FBI on either side of him. The fact that he was treated ‘like a common criminal’, was far more shocking to the french than anything he might have done.
    Another thing I find hard to understand is the way in which his wife continues to behave as if he is entirely innocent, even though he has admitted to ‘consensual sex with the maid’.
    As for the maid being a ‘temptress’, surely they would have chosen someone rather more pre-possessing?

    • Well Mo
      Being a gentleman, I felt unable to mention the profound, Quasimodoesque ugliness of Diallo, but as you’ve brought it up anyway, we might as well get it out in the open, although not in the DSK sense.
      Did you see the New York Times shot of the other maids demonstrating at DSK arraignment hearing? Ugly as sin all of them.
      You have to worry about Strauss-Kahn. His wife is merely a traditional aristocrat, grin and bear it.

      • Anne Sinclair, with her Ava Gardner’s looks, is just a woman deeply in love. Or at least was, because the Carlton case is even more shabby than the Sofitel one. Poor Diallo, reduced to a hole !

    • Any port in a storm? I must confess to being drawn into a conversation at work a few years ago. A very heavy,unbraw, female who had ‘scent’ issues. Managed to bag and keep a loving, caring devoted man 9 years younger who was DDG! His Ex, whom he dumped to be with this female, had won several local beauty thingys. I don’t normally get involved with the bitching about boys stories but this was did intruige me. I just showed willing and asked him “how long have you been in love with ********?” he replied ” probably before we were born, she is my soul mate, I love everything about her…

      Soulmate if you are out there… lol

      Mind you, there is a degree of uglyness to which I will not entertain.

      • @Miss B

        I have yet to work out what it is that men find in women, other than the proverbial.

        Having spent the last five years looking at just about every man that passes me and thinking “I wonder” – it is not their being ugly, but their manner of presenting themselves. If they are clean and have a neatness about them – whether they are wearing a suit or plain work clothes, it somehow shows through that they care how they look.

        That and a ready smile.

    • Why DSK admitted to “consensual sex” with ND is still a mystery for me. Who would, could believe such a nonsense ? I suspect he didn’t pay ND and that this is why she was out of herself (something that everybody can understand). Is he stingy ?

  9. You have omitted any mention of DSK’s exploits with his good friends from Lille. The night before he came to the New York Sofitel, he had been engaged in Washington with a group of his French friends from a construction company and the Lille police involving prostitutes.

    The Lille police had been engaged in a surveillance of some of these contacts in an investigation based around a prostitute ring at the Lille Hotel Carlton begun in February 2009.

    • Robert
      I think you’ll find it is in there, although not branded ‘Lille’. DSK is suing the police and the UMP for falsification.

      • Hes not denying he was in the orgies and he is not suing the police or the UMP – he is suing a politician and a couple of papers for talking about his private life ( very strong privacy laws in France)

  10. I’m not sure I know what to make of all this anymore, what a thoroughly grubby scandal it all is, They were dismissing DSK stories as conspiracy on Radio4 this am. One thing I think we can agree on that DSK is a uniquely odious creature. Imagine if he had won the French Presidential Election! Certainly would have kept the nice tabloid folks busy with a sordid revelation on a weekly basis. Do we know if he is mates with Berlusconi? They would apear to make a great pair

    • DSK has more class than Berlusconi and doen’t dye his hair! In addition I don’t think DSK writes and publishes lyrical songs of self praise. More surprisingly people actually buy these records.
      I will concede that DSK may sing songs of self praise in the privacy of his shower. Maybe that is what the French black ops was about-bugging DSK’s shower at the Sofitel to record him signing songs of self praise and publishing them to destroy his reputation!!!
      By golly this story is getter better every second.

      • @HR – see my comment below. It is an experience from the other side.

        I could only wish that a guy as smart as DSK had the inner resources not to need constant sexual conquests. He would be a fantastic husband then.

      • My view of DSK the man is the same as sandysview. But as far as I know Berlusconi’s dalliances were with willing sellers, including Ruby, not sure that can be said of DSK.

      • @RP
        Sorry, I do not agree. I have met them, you have not. Were he an out and out rapist, then yes.

        Otherwise he is only a man with the usual problem in the ego department. It expresses itself in self-denigration, fast cars, overt success over everything, lots of money or simply sex. In each case, they are covering up for an insecurity.

      • DSK was buggering a French prostitute against her will in the toilet of a Paris restaurant. Not sure what that says about his character :)

      • @Jayt
        You could well be right – but my experiences have not come via the mainstream media, but directly. There is a difference between someone who wants to make love to a woman and one who wants to rape them.

        Just because your statement about DSK to me would not be in his character does not make it less possible. But then, you were there, so you should know.

    • @Sandy
      Whilst I have never met the man, there have been occasions when such people have crossed my path. Invariably they are polite and courteous. They are as entertaining as they are generous – and persistant, if you get my meaning.

      If such people had a slightly higher opinion of their own selves, they would not need to display it to themselves by needing to conquer each and every woman they meet.

      It is quite a different scenario from a lonely sad old man alone in a cold bedroom with piles of girlie magazines for company, or someone who goes around raping women – which is certainly not DSK’s style (if I have read him correctly).

      In short, they want a conquest, but will do everything to get it, and what is more, make the experience as pleasant for both as it is possible to be. That is a far cry from someone who is behaving like “an odious creature”. Were he a serial rapist, then I would agree with you.

      I will add as a codicil that such men are hard to say no to. They cannot hear the word, and the only way to say “no” in this case is by doing it.

      • Interesting Gemz, but I reckon he is someone used to getting his way, has enormous power and wealth which for many women is an aphrodisiac if only by association. Charm? probably but the man is clearly a monster who does not entertain dissent. He doesnt need to be a serial rapist because he has willing popsies queuing up. If he didnt and was a man without the wealth and power, but a dick he couldnt keep in hs pants would you be so forgiving?

      • @Sandy
        I was considering him amongst the same sort of men that I have come across. None of them had power or presige, but all of them had the same need. Frankly, I am forgiving of all of them – but they do not get their way with me, for I play for keeps, which means they commit first.

        Yes, he wanted his own way. What I want is a relationship – which is where we both get our ways, and both have to give away too. In the long run, both get more than they give. A man like DSK does not want a relationship with those he wooes.

        I think you misunderstand the rapist by what you say. The rapist is quite a different animal, and needs the violence to get himself aroused. It is nasty, and for the woman extremely unpleasant. A man like DSK for all his faults, will give his full attention to satisfying his women. He prides himself not only on his conquest, but in giving her immense pleasure too. Let me just say that the last man I met of this kind was so good at kissing that I could have come just from that alone, had I allowed myself. He was a master, and wanted to show it: it took him five minutes to arouse me.

        A rapist would not have tried to woo me with kisses but by strangling me or hitting me over the head.

      • @jayt
        Of men like him: the ones that need sexual conquests to make them feel whole. He is not alone in this, and there are several features which characterize his “sort” – and many of them are good points. I thought I had explained this point.

    • How do you know for sure ? DSK asked to be heard and yet hasn’t been.
      Isn’t it better to wait for tangible facts before speculating ?

    • Well, just imagine that, if you will. We are talking France!

      In the middle of Sarkozy’s campaign his wife left him to return to her Argentinian lover in New York. Sure France giggled about the poor hapless cuckold they were electing, but elect him they did. And then cheered him on when he bagged a serial groupie to be his first “lady”.

  11. Again,Mr Ward has brought to our attention the intrusiveness of our technology.However,contrary to our beloved police’s belief and GCHQ assuredness,but technology has moved on and rapidly.Off shore hacking is now endemic in the UK and anyone putting any major discovery on a computing device are naive.The hacking is on an industrial and automated scale,using friends in the Uk as first point of call who collect phone numbers and ISP addresses,which are shipped overseas for “analysis”.Recently Merseyside has been very active as a point of reference probably looking for information on the new plod in London.But of course our genius pool from Oxbridge have this all secure!

  12. John, I can’t but help think you are onto something. It could have been the USA had wanted and waited for ‘something ‘ to happen and grabbed the opportunity which presented itself: with the bungling maid. My guess is, the maid may have been involved with a sting operation, money from pocket perhaps? anyway, the phone was ‘found’ and a ‘story’ emerged. The finder of the phone and the maid concocted something realising the importance of the man or knew of his importance before? all supposition., I agree.

    Surely, he used his personal phone for personal issues, as do most peopel who have ‘work phones’. Damn, there goes that common sense thing again. I laughed at the thought of nobody having access to his phone. Being a lesser mortal I lost my phone and had it replaced with EVERYTHING in tact. all my apps and phone numbers and – my phone was recovered as well!

  13. I know DSK and have always been proud of the dignified and cooperative manner in which he conducted himself throughout this fiasco. I’ve never believed he raped Diallo nor think he had consensual sex with her. But he will vaguely stick with this version of the story for now. There’s a lot more people and facts involved in this case. I’ve always thought Diallo was after one of his phones either to use it for her own scams or because she was following instructions from someone else to get DSK’s phone. He probably caught her going through his things and asked her to leave the room. I’m sure there was plenty of sperm and spit in the room (why did Diallo had to spit so much while giving her version of the story to the hotel security and later to the police?), but I’d be very surprised if they found Diallo’s DNA on DSK’s body.

    John, you have been doing a magnificent investigative journalism job with this story. Congratulations!

  14. @Gemz

    I read your analysis and completely agree with you. You’re extremely intelligent and an excellent observant of human nature. :-)

  15. Did the French do it? The CIA? Maybe it was Putin? Or Rasputin! Or someone truly evil – a banker.

    In 2004-05 the IMF had tried a radically different bailout that works, in Ukraine, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria. In the week leading up to this incident DSK had gotten the votes from the IMF Board of Governors to offer the same to Greece. DSK was enroute to a meeting with Merkle to make the proposition. According to an article a week after the incident by Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the IMF, the proposal would have forced France and Germany to put up major funds, something neither government could have survived. Johnson thinks DSK was trying to topple both governments.

    But,Merkle and Sarkozy could have survived by making Goldman Sachs the fall guy. Remember, Goldman sold credit default swaps that insure all of that Greek debt. And seizing Goldman’s European assets would more than pay off the Greek debt. So, perhaps we should include Lloyd Blankfein as a conspirator too.

  16. JW you have no doubt unraveled the story, but still it’s bizarre. Although no more bizarre and ridiculous than the ATF gunwalking operation to the Mexican drug cartels known as Fast and Furious fortunately without the tragic results.

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