Former IMF chief's apartment new tourist spot
Updated: 2011-05-23 16:41
NEW YORK - The New York apartment building where former IMF leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn is under house arrest on sexual assault charges has become a new tourist hot spot.
Meanwhile, the IMF has been working to find a successor to lead an organization that provides billions in loans to stabilize the world economy. France's finance minister, Christine Lagarde, has emerged as a front-runner to replace Strauss-Kahn, but emerging economies have pressed for an end to Europe's traditional stranglehold on the position of IMF managing director.
A tourist poses for a picture next to a television camera as media gather outside of the building where Dominique Strauss-Kahn is currently staying on house arrest in New York City May 21, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
On Sunday, open-top buses passed by, with cameras pointed at the luxury high-rise in lower Manhattan where Strauss-Kahn was holed up with his wife, Anne Sinclair.
She left in the late morning, getting into an SUV, destination unknown. Sinclair returned about four hours later.
Sinclair, a prominent French TV journalist before her marriage to Strauss-Kahn, has stood by her husband since his arrest last Sunday. The 62-year-old economist is accused of sexually assaulting a maid last weekend in his $3,000-a-night hotel suite at the Sofitel, near Manhattan's Times Square. He has denied the allegations.
Strauss-Kahn was released from Rikers Island jail on Friday on $1 million bail plus $5 million bond.
A crowd of international reporters and onlookers is gathering around the clock outside the 21-story Empire Building at 71 Broadway, across from Wall Street. Strauss-Kahn was moved there Friday from his jail cell.
Another tony Manhattan building on the Upper East Side rejected him, after residents in the building complained about the throng of police and media gathered outside.
Amandine Atalaya, a correspondent for France's TF1 television channel, flew in from Paris after Strauss-Kahn's arrest. She estimated that she's done more than 200 standup reports from New York in the past week, getting only about four hours of sleep a night.
Atalaya says US media "have been very harsh with Strauss-Kahn" in a way she says French reporters are not.
He stood a chance of becoming his country's next president, but now awaits his next New York court appearance, which is scheduled for June 6. Strauss-Kahn resigned Wednesday as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
It's not clear when and where he will be moved to a more permanent house arrest; calls to his attorney and to the security firm weren't returned.
The Empire Building is within the New York Police Department's ring of steel, a network of private and police cameras in lower Manhattan near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers.
Even with the severe restrictions, Strauss-Kahn's family wealth has afforded him one of the cushiest bail agreements possible. But it won't come cheap. The cost to secure the former International Monetary Fund chief was estimated at $200,000 a month - and he must foot the bill. In comparison, it costs the city about $6,500 a month to house an inmate at a facility like Rikers Island, where he had been held nearly a week.
The funds will go toward armed guards, the installation of cameras and a special bracelet shackled to his ankle that will set off an alarm if he travels too far.
Right now, he's not allowed out at all, but after he's moved to a more permanent location he can leave for court, doctor visits and weekly religious services. Prosecutors must be notified at least six hours before he goes anywhere. He can't be out between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
But he won't be lonely: Strauss-Kahn can have visitors - up to four at a time in addition to family.
Meanwhile, the IMF has been accepting nominations from member countries for candidates to succeed Strauss-Kahn. The IMF executive board said it plans to make its selection by the end of June.
On Sunday, France's Lagarde received the backing of British Treasury chief George Osborne who described her as the "outstanding candidate" to lead the world financial body.
But South Africa and Australia insisted that the best candidate should be appointed to lead the IMF irrespective of nationality, calling for an end to the convention that the body will always be headed by a European.
"For too long, the IMF's legitimacy has been undermined by a convention to appoint its senior management on the basis of their nationality," Australian treasurer Wayne Swan and South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan said in a joint statement Sunday. "In order to maintain trust, credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of its stakeholders, there must be an open and transparent selection process which results in the most competent person being appointed as managing director, regardless of their nationality."
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