Paris: French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s ruling UMP party dismissed allegations on Saturday of a political plot to bring down disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, following an investigative report by a US journalist.
The article by Edward Jay Epstein, published in the New York Review of Books, raised the question of whether a Blackberry phone belonging to Strauss-Kahn was being tapped by his political opponents at the time of his arrest in May on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid.
At the time, Strauss-Kahn, a former Socialist finance minister, was the frontrunner to win France`s presidential election next year. The scandal forced him to resign his IMF post and ended his presidential prospects.
New York prosecutors later dropped criminal charges against him, citing doubts about the credibility of the maid Nafissatou Diallo, who continues with a civil case.
The secretary-general of the UMP, Jean-Francois Cope, said allegations of a political plot were a clumsy manipulation.
"As long as these are just allegations based on anonymous testimony we know nothing about, you will understand that we remain extremely cautious and are not fooled," Cope said.
"To imagine that what happened to Mr Strauss-Kahn was the object of any kind of involvement by the UMP, excuse me, but let me say that it`s a bit obvious as a manipulation," he said.
The article quoted unnamed sources close to Strauss-Kahn as saying a friend of his working as a researcher at the UMP`s offices had warned him that at least one of his private emails sent from his Blackberry had been read there.
Responding to the report, a lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, William Taylor, issued a statement saying that the possibility that his client had been the target of a politically motivated campaign could not be excluded.
The report also called into question the behaviour of the staff of the Sofitel Hotel in New York, where the alleged assault took place.
It said that a hotel employee and an unidentified man appeared to celebrate as they awaited the arrival of police after hotel management called in the incident.
A spokesman for the Accor Group, which owns the Sofitel chain, could not immediately be reached for comment. However, a newspaper quoted a source close to the group as saying that Accor staff had searched security tapes for any evidence of the alleged dance and found nothing.
Strauss-Kahn was arrested in New York on May 14 onboard a plane bound for Europe minutes before take-off and later charged with attempting to rape Diallo.
Prosecutors eventually dropped criminal charges, leaving Strauss-Kahn free to return to his native France, where prosecutors ruled that a separate sex assault complaint filed by a writer concerned an incident that happened too long ago to permit judicial pursuit.
The media furore around Strauss-Kahn has not stopped there. His name has appeared in media reports on a judicial probe into a prostitution ring in the north of France, known as the Carlton Affair. That relates to the discovery earlier this year of a network that supplied prostitutes to clients of the luxury Carlton hotel in the city of Lille.