|Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, led by William Taylor, second from left, and Nafissatou Diallo, second from right, and her lawyers appear in court in New York, Monday. (AP-YOnhap News)|
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was widely seen as the frontrunner to win the French presidency, until a New York hotel maid accused him of a sickening sexual assault.
The 63-year-old economist agreed to pay his accuser damages on Monday, in a confidential settlement to her civil case against him, but their six-minute May 2011 encounter had already brought an end to his lofty ambitions.
Before his fall DSK, as he is known in France, had been one of the world's most prominent public figures, steering the International Monetary Fund through the global financial crisis.
Nafissatou Diallo, accused him of sexually assaulting her when she went to clean his luxury suite, and New York police shocked France by parading the suspect before the world's cameras handcuffed, unshaven and disheveled.
He was forced to quit the IMF and to abandon what had been expected to be a successful challenge to President Nicolas Sarkozy in elections in May, which in the event were won by his fellow Socialist Francois Hollande.
"He was right at the top, and then he found himself in the gutter," says Stephane Zagdanski, who penned a novel based on the politician's career.
Criminal charges of sexual assault were eventually dropped but Diallo launched a civil suit against him in New York, which was settled on Monday.
The terms of the deal have been kept confidential. His lawyers dismissed as "dramatically inaccurate" reports Diallo would be paid $6 million, although a significant sum is understood to have been paid.
Born to a Jewish family in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1949, Strauss-Kahn spent part of his childhood in Morocco and later studied at the elite Paris schools Sciences-Po and HEC.
He entered politics in 1986, winning a parliamentary seat to represent the Haute-Savoie region in the Alps, and was later elected in the Paris region in 1988. He also taught economics.
DSK went on to serve as finance minister from 1997 to 1999 in the Socialist government that won power during the presidential mandate of Jacques Chirac.
During that time, he took part in negotiations to create the single European currency and oversaw a wave of privatisations, including that of France Telecom, overriding resistance within the ranks of his party.
But he was forced to step down over allegations he had received payments from a student health insurance fund for legal work he did not perform, but was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2001.
After winning the French presidency in 2007, the conservative Sarkozy put Strauss-Kahn forward as France's candidate to head the IMF, a move seen as an astute way of neutralising one of the Socialists' most prominent leaders.
In 2008, he was discovered to be having an affair with a married Hungarian IMF economist. The IMF's internal investigation concluded he had not exerted pressure on the woman, but had made an error of judgment.
The New York hotel scandal in 2011, during which Strauss-Kahn was taken off a plane by US police officers as he was about to leave for Paris, made it impossible for him to remain in his post.
The silver-haired woes did not stop when he finally got home to France, where a string of ever more sordid revelations about him emerged.
A 32-year-old writer went public with an allegation that Strauss-Kahn had tried to rape her in 2002.
French investigators questioned Strauss-Kahn and his accuser and concluded that, while there was evidence of a sexual assault, it had occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.
Another probe investigated whether Strauss-Kahn participated in the gang rape of a Belgian prostitute. But it was eventually dropped when the woman recanted and said she had consented to any sex acts.
On December 19, Strauss-Kahn will learn whether he faces further investigation into pimping charges arising from allegations that he and associates arranged sex parties with prostitutes for wealthy men.
During the height of the scandal, Strauss-Kahn's third wife Anne Sinclair, a prominent French journalist and wealthy heiress, remained by his side.
But in August she implicitly confirmed reports they had separated.
Strauss-Kahn has recently made a quiet comeback as a business consultant and conference speaker. (AFP)