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Director of International Monetary Fund accused of sex assault in New York

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NEW YORK — from www.boston-com – The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was taken off a plane at Kennedy International Airport minutes before it was to take off for Paris yesterday and arrested in connection with the sexual attack of a maid at a Manhattan hotel, the authorities said.

Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was widely expected to become the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, was apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the first-class section of the Air France jetliner and immediately turned over to detectives from the Manhattan Special Victims squad, officials said.

“He is being arrested for a criminal sex act, attempted rape, and unlawful imprisonment,’’ said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman.

A spokeswoman for the office of the Manhattan district attorney said that prosecutors were expected to bring formal criminal charges against Strauss-Kahn by today.

Strauss-Khan, a former French finance minister, had been expected to declare his candidacy soon after three and a half years as the leader of the fund, which is based in Washington. At the IMF, he was considered by many to have done a good job in a period of intense global economic strain, when the bank itself had become vital to the smooth running of the world and the European economy.

His detention came about 4:40 p.m., when two Port Authority detectives boarded Air France Flight 23, as the plane idled on the tarmac, said John P.L. Kelly, a spokesman for the agency.

“It was 10 minutes before its scheduled departure,’’ Kelly said. “They were just about to close the doors.’’

Kelly said Strauss-Kahn was traveling alone and was not handcuffed.

“He complied with the detectives’ directions,’’ Kelly said.

The Port Authority officers were acting on information from the New York Police Department, whose detectives had been investigating the assault of a female employee of the Sofitel New York in the heart of the theater district. Working quickly, the city detectives learned he had boarded a flight at Kennedy airport to leave the country.

Strauss-Khan’s time at the bank was tarnished in 2008 by an affair with a Hungarian economist who was a subordinate at the bank. The fund decided to stand by him despite concluding that he had shown poor judgment in conducting the affair. Strauss-Kahn issued an apology to employees at the bank and his wife, Anne Sinclair, a US-born French television journalist.

In the New York case, Browne said, the chambermaid entered Strauss-Kahn’s suite at about 1 p.m. to clean it. Browne said the suite, which cost $3,000 a night, had a foyer, a living room and a bedroom.

As she was in the foyer, “he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her,’’ Browne said. “He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed,’’ Browne added. He locked the door to the suite, Browne said.

“She fights him off and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time,’’ Browne added.

The woman broke free, Browne said, and “she fled, reported it to other hotel personnel, who called 911.

Browne said Strauss-Kahn appeared to have left in a hurry. Investigators found his cellphone in the room, which he had left behind, and one law enforcement official said that investigation in the hotel room uncovered evidence that would contain DNA.

Browne said the city’s Emergency Medical Services took the maid to Roosevelt Hospital for what Browne described as treatment for “minor injuries.’’

No matter the outcome of the arrest, it will likely throw the French political world into turmoil and the Socialist Party into confusion.

Strauss-Kahn, a leading member of the party, has been considered the front-runner for the next presidential election in France in May 2012. Opinion polls have shown him to be the Socialists’ most popular candidate and running well ahead of the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, who leads the center-right party.

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