Geopolitics

Meet Stephanie Ausbart, The French Judge Who Slapped DSK With "Pimping" Charge

As Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyers fight to have his civil suit dismissed in New York, he faces an even more difficult legal fight in the French city of Lille. Stephanie Ausbart, the magistrate who has just charged DSK with "aggravated pimping,

The Carlton Hotel in Lille is at the center of the charges in Strauss-Kahn's woes in France  (Tours59/WTO)
The Carlton Hotel in Lille is at the center of the charges in Strauss-Kahn's woes in France (Tours59/WTO)
Emeline Cazi and Ariane Chemin 

LILLE - The judge who has placed Dominique Strauss-Kahn under investigation for "aggravated pimping as part of an organized gang" is a woman, like the large majority of young magistrates in France. An attractive 37-year-old brunette with dark eyes, Stéphanie Ausbart is married and "a very hard-worker," according to all the lawyers who work with her. She is also described as a "stubborn."

The credentials and reputedly "incorruptible" character of the magistrate is one more factor stacked up against the former International Monetary Fund chief, whose U.S. lawyers are struggling to get him freed from a civil suit stemming from the encounter last year where a New York hotel maid said DSK sexually assaulted her.

But at the same time, after criminal charges in the New York case were dropped, Strauss-Kahn has wound up at the center of a criminal probe into an alleged high-end prostitution ring in Lille, a mid-sized city north of Paris. That's where he has faced off in front of Ausbart, who has been presiding over the case for months.

During the last year, Ausbart has been questioning witnesses, suspects and other parties in her office on the 10th floor of the Lille courthouse. Those who have met her say they quickly realize that this judge knows her material, and is as tough as nails. When René Kojfer, public relations manager at the Carlton Hotel, pleaded ingenuousness in his lispy voice, Ausbart stood up and, drumming her fingers on the table, made it very clear that she expects to be taken seriously.

The courtroom tears from David Roquet, one of DSK's party organizers, did not impress her either. She allowed him to dry his eyes and then continued with her next question: "Could it not be thought that if this important politician had not been taken for questioning in the United States on rape charges, you would no doubt have continued your activities?"

And she seems almost mocking when she mentions the "competition" among members of DSK's entourage to please their high-placed friend. Strauss-Kahn vehemently denies the charges, which he says are part of a concerted effort to discredit him.

The judge has also come up against obstacles on several occasions, notably with the Prosecutor"s Office in Lille. When Police Chief Jean-Christophe Lagarde was placed under investigation for "aggravated pimping," the prosecutor refused to approve temporary detention. Ausbart referred the case to the judge in charge of determining the detention and release of suspects but without success.

Equal before the law

She believes that the members of the gang are all equals and none of the famous suspects should be spared, according to Franck Berton, one of the lawyers on the case. The Prosecutor's Office wanted to take her off the case, but she refused. The Cour de Cassation, (France's court of last resort), supported Ausbart.

In a case where sex and money are the issues at hand, no questions are off limits for Ausbart. "Generally speaking, what were your sexual practices?" she asked one of the suspects under examination. When addressing another she considers a "black thong" found in a bag, and a third suspect is asked "Insofar as you possess a copy of a pornographic magazine as well as a DVD entitled "Nail the coffin", could you explain to us the level of violence of your sexual games? Did you not fear that your children might come across them one evening?" Judging these questions "inappropriate and leading," Roquet's lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti showed an "extremely worrying puritan streak."

The judge's love of law and order can be traced back to her education. At 24, the young woman from Picardy in the north of France passed the national exams for the Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature (French National School for the Judiciary). In 2000, she was appointed deputy public prosecutor at Senlis, just north of Paris, before joining the court at Mont-de-Marsan in southwest France from 2003 to 2007. She then became a judge at Dax, also in the southwest, before being appointed to the Instruction, a French legal term which refers to an independent group of magistrates who examine cases, at Lille in June 2009.

The cases she had previously dealt were mostly common law affairs: incest, fatal road accidents, medical errors. That was, of course, until this case of hotel prostitution was referred to her, and quickly became a national affair indeed. As well as the sexy rendezvous at the Carlton Hotel in Lille, she discovered "libertine" nights taking place in Paris, Washington and Brussels, which DSK would attend.

Read more from Le Monde in French.

Photo - Tours59/World Trade Organization

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ