The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (photo, from cnn.com), was taken off an Air France plane at JFK airport on Saturday minutes before if left for Paris and has been charged by New York police over an alleged sex attack on a hotel maid.
New York Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said detectives formally arrested Strauss-Kahn at 2:15 a.m.
The IMF chief is due to appear before a New York state court later on Sunday, Reuters reports.
Mr Strauss-Kahn is due to be in Brussels on Monday in order to attend a meeting of European Union finance ministers to talk about the bailouts of Greece and Portugal. But his detention will probably complicate the IMF’s efforts to stabilise the finances of some eurozone member states.
He said Mr Strauss-Kahn has been charged with criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment relating to an incident involving the 32-year-old woman.
‘In a hurry’
Mr Browne said the hotel has been identified as the Sofitel near Times Square.
He told the BBC : “We received a call that a chambermaid in a hotel in midtown Manhattan had been sexually assaulted by the occupant of a luxury suite at that hotel, and that that individual had fled.”
“The maid described being forcibly attacked, locked in the room and sexually assaulted,” he said.
Mr Browne explained that by the time the police found out that the occupant of the room was Mr Strauss-Kahn, he was on board an Air France plane about to depart for Paris.
The room was described by the New York Times as a luxury suite costing $3,000 per night.
“Our detectives requested of the airport authorities that they stop the plane from leaving, went to the airport and took him into custody,” Mr Browne said.
He added that Mr Strauss-Kahn seemed to have left the hotel “in a hurry” because he left his mobile phone and other personal belongings behind.
The hotel maid has been treated at the hospital for minor injuries.
On Sunday an IMF spokeswoman posted a short statement online, acknowledging Mr Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. She also said that the organisation would not comment further.
“The IMF remains fully functioning and operational,” she added.
The married former French finance minister will plead not guilty, his lawyer told Reuters.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, is seen as a possible Socialist candidate for the French presidency in 2012, but this incident will probably end his chances.
Although he was widely expected to be a candidate, he has not yet announced whether he will run in the presidential elections.
In 2007 he was appointed managing director of the IMF and has since won praise for his stewardship of the organisation, which he has led through the recent world financial crisis.
But he was investigated by the IMF board in 2008 over his relationship with a female member of his staff.
The board ruled his actions “reflected a serious error of judgment”, but said the relationship had been consensual. Mr Strauss-Kahn apologised to his wife, French TV personality Anne Sinclair, and IMF staff.