STRAUSS-KAHN: HOTEL-TO-ELYSEES CALL CONFIRMED, VANCE OPTS FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Spotlight on Sarko again as early  Elysee knowledge of DSK arrest confirmed

Paris talking about little else as L’Affaire DSK takes new turn

In another bizarre twist to the now collapsed case against Dominic Strauss-Kahn, the Sofitel Hotel in New York yesterday confirmed that it had indeed placed a telephone call to Sarkozy security aides ‘within minutes’ of maid Nafissatou Diallo raising the alarm following what she claims was an attempted rape last May 14th.

“All is not clear in the behaviour of Sofitel and Accor group management, and there could have been links between the Accor group before or after the affair and perhaps certain secret service groups,” said François Loncle, a Socialist MP. Michèle Sabban, the Socialist vice-president of the Paris area regional council, went further, claiming Mr Strauss-Kahn had been the victim of a “political attack”. These being socialist politicians, it is of course entirely part of their agenda to accuse the Sarkozy regime of being somehow involved in a plot to put Strauss-Kahn out of the 2012 Presidential race; but even in that context, the confirmation that the call was made has shocked even the most resistant to DSK conspiracy theories.

Whatever does or does not emerge from further enquiries about the phone call, President Sarkozy is unlikely to benefit from them. Assuming his aides took the call and said “Fine – arrest him”, it will look as if the the UMP regime was happy for DSK to disappear from contention: and it’s hard to imagine circumstances in which a head of State would say “Let him go”, but be ignored by mere hoteliers.

As the Slog reported a few days ago, there remains as well the delay in the phone call to the NYPD on the day of the alleged attack. The hotel has never given a satisfactory explanation of this missing 62 minutes; nor will the hotel’s manager comment on the recorded fact that he too (like Diallo) spent time in Room 2820 – the one adjoining DSK’s Presidential Suite. The Slog noted that DA Cyrus Vance was under increasing tabloid pressure to formally investigate these events at the hotel, and it appears he has now bowed to this by putting off the next Strauss-Kahn hearing while further investigations take place.

A joint statement from the defense and prosecution lawyers released yesterday said further investigation into the matter was needed before the case could be heard ‘satisfactorily’. The joint nature of the announcement is being taken as a sign that Vance’s office is primarily interested in a possible conspiracy element to the case: I understand that neither side expects the original charges against Strauss-Kahn to be revived.

“We hope that byAugust 1st the prosecutor will take the necessary decision to drop the charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn,” explained Benjamin Brafman and William Taylor, the US team defending the former IMF boss.

Much of the Parisien chattering class now awaits a reaction (if any) from the Elysee Palace security operation, either confirming or denying that the call took place. But the hotel’s affirmation that it did puts them in a tricky spot – especially as L’Observateur last week printed a story based on persistent rumours that Sarkozy ‘knew about the charges facing Dominic Strauss-Kahn even before he was hauled from his Air France flight at Kennedy Airport’. Liberal-facing magazine  Marianne asked ‘Is the Elysée under the Sofitel carpet?’ a question barbed by the knowledge that Sofitel’s owners the Accor group enjoys close ties with the ruling UMP party. ‘There is an issue about what they did with the information,’ the periodical claims.

The saga continues. DSK has already said he won’t stand in 2012: but if Sarkozy were to be linked convincingly to an anti-DSK plot, it would still be a matter of celebration on the French Left.