Lille: The pimping trial of ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was dominated today by hints of conspiracy and political intrigue as his lawyers argued the case was based on a secret, state-ordered probe into the former presidential frontrunner.
The 65-year-old economist, whose high-flying career imploded when he was accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid in 2011, is back in court over his role at the centre of a prostitution ring.
Once one of the most powerful men in the world, Strauss-Kahn sat in the dock alongside a colourful cast of characters including luxury hotel managers, a prostitute, police, and a brothel owner nicknamed "Dodo the Pimp."
Arms folded and dressed in a black suit he appeared tense, often typing on his cellphone as procedural issues dominated the first day of the three-week trial in the northern French city of Lille.
Lawyers for several of the 14 accused, including Strauss-Kahn, called for the case to be declared invalid over claims some of their clients had their calls intercepted on orders from former prime minister Francois Fillon's office in June 2010, eight months before the official investigation began.
The allegation, based on a book written by a former policeman, a witness statement in a separate case and a report by an investigative journalist, meant the accused "could not receive a fair trial," said one of their lawyers, Sorin Margulis.
The lawyers demanded more information on the secret probe and also slammed the three investigating judges for bias, over reports they had stuck a caricature of the Strauss-Kahn up in their office.
Presiding judge Bernard Lemaire, who earlier dismissed a request for ex-prostitutes to testify behind closed doors, said the question about the secret probe would be included in the trial.
He earlier read out the charges against Strauss-Kahn, accused of being at the centre of a vice ring which hired prostitutes for sex parties in Brussels, Paris and Washington.
"You are accused of aiding and abetting the prostitution of seven persons between March 29, 2008 and October 4, 2011, and of hiring and encouraging the prostitution of these same persons," Lemaire said.