May 4, 2012

Edward Jay Epstein: What I Still Don’t Know About DSK


I have spent the last 10 months investigating the incident of May 14, 2011 involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which has resulted in Three Days In May: Sex, Surveillance, and DSK.

I have had considerable success obtaining CCTV surveillance tapes from around the hotel, the key swipe records for both the Presidential suite (2806) in which the incident took place and the room across the hall (2820), cell phone records, and police reports.

But despite all my digging, I have been unable to answer 10 key questions about the downfall of DSK – nor was DSK able to shed light on them during my interview with him this April.

1.  Who put DSK under surveillance during his US trip in May 2011, and why? I am convinced that DSK was under surveillance both on his trip to Washington DC and New York. But I do not know who ordered the surveillance. He had reportedly become the target of the DCRI, France’s domestic intelligence service that March. That agency, according to my sources in US intelligence, certainly had the capability to track DSK in the US, but it also may have been handled by a freelancer.

2. Why were the hotel’s key card records for room 2820 not provided to the New York prosecutors immediately? The records, which can be found here, are the best evidence of what happened on the 28th floor, which is not covered by CCTV cameras. If they had been handed over immediately, the flaws in the maid’s story would have become instantly apparent to the prosecutors. They would have seen then, as they later reported in their motion for dismissal, her “credibility could not withstand the most basic evaluation.” But who was responsible for this long delay?

3. Why did the maid enter DSK’s suite twice without her cleaning equipment? The key card records indicate that the maid entered, left, and re-entered the president suite at 12:06 pm just before the sexual encounter took place. The maid told prosecutors her gear was inside room 2820, the room across the hall. DSK told me he was certain that she had no cleaning equipment.  The hotel managers I interviewed all agreed a maid cannot clean a room with her equipment. Her first entry might have been to see if room was available for cleaning, but, why would she then leave and re-enter without the gear she needed to clean the suite?

4. Who was in room 2820, across the hall from DSK’s presidential suite? The Sofitel has consistently refused to identify the mystery guest in room 2820, even though he could be an important witness to the events on 14 May 2011. Hotel records show the unidentified man in room 2820 checked out at 11:37 am that morning, but I have been unable to get the CCTV footage showing the man checking out at 11:37 am.

5. Why did two hotel employees carry out a “victory dance”? The pair, who included the head engineer and a hotel security guard, displayed joy when the police were finally called. As a CCTV video in loading the dock shows, both men spoke for a moment, then high-fived each other, clapping their hands and briefly dancing. Other hotel managers I interviewed said calling the police would be viewed as a disaster in terms of the hotel’s image. So what were these men celebrating?

6. Was DSK’s IMF BlackBerry bugged? This was the device that he used to send and receive both personal and work texts and emails. According to DSK, he received an alarming text message on this device on the morning of the encounter with the maid. A friend from Paris warned him that at least one private email he had recently sent from the IMF BlackBerry to his wife Anne Sinclair had been read by his political foes. He decided then to have the BlackBerry examined by an expert to see if it was bugged.

7. Why did that same IMF BlackBerry go missing? Later that day, after the sexual encounter with Diallo and after his subsequent lunch with his daughter, as he was in a taxi headed for JFK airport, DSK realized the IMF BlackBerry was missing. What DSK did not know was that his phone had remained at the Sofitel after he left the hotel. BlackBerry records show that the device’s GPS signal was still emanating from the Sofitel 23 minutes after DSK left, at 12.51pm. But at that moment it abruptly stopped sending out a signal, indicating either that the battery had run out or that the GPS had been intentionally disabled. As the phone was not found in the police search that afternoon, someone took it. But who—and why?

8. What restrained the hotel from calling 911 immediately after the incident? There was a gap of about one hour before Sofitel security guards contacted police. The videos of the security area show repeated re-enactments.  Had the maid been unwilling up until that time to go to the police, as a lawyer for the hotel group suggested? If so, who or what had persuaded Diallo to go to the authorities?

9. Who intervened from Paris with the New York district attorney’s office on 15 May? The prosecutor Cyrus Vance was reportedly contacted by one or more French officials who provided information that appears to have been significant in persuading New York courts to refuse him bail and keep him in prison, further damaging his public reputation. Who were these officials, and why did they intervene in a way that hastened DSK’s downfall?

10. Who else had sexual liaisons in that same suite? No one doubts DSK had a sexual liaison with the maid. DNA testing showed his semen mixed with her saliva. But they were not the only ones having them. When the police lab examined the carpet in the section of corridor near the bathroom, precisely where she said she had spat, it found semen stains from other individuals, including one stain containing a mixture of one person’s saliva mixed with the semen from three other people.

In all, the identified semen or saliva mixed with semen from seven unknown individuals, all the engagements taking place in this same small area. (Other areas in the suite were not examined.) Since this evidence would be washed away by multiple room cleanings, the conclusion of forensic experts was that they had occurred only a short time before the suite was rented to DSK. But the key card records I obtained for the Presidential suite, unlike those of 2820, do not extend before the day DSK arrived. I was therefore unable to ascertain how, when, or why these 7 unknown individuals got access to the suite.

Edward Jay Epstein's book The Annals of Unsolved Crime is available now from Melville House.