A French journalist and writer will today formally accuse former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her.
Five days after attempted rape charges against the former French presidential front-runner began to founder in New York, Tristane Banon, 31, will bring a formal complaint in Paris that Mr Strauss-Kahn sexually assaulted her during an interview in 2002.
Mr Strauss-Kahn's lawyers immediately counter-attacked. They said the attack was "imaginary" and he would sue the young woman.
The announcement by Ms Banon's lawyer dropped a new bombshell into the frenzied debate in France on Mr Strauss-Kahn's political future if he escapes a trial in the US. His Socialist party colleagues and rivals indicated yesterday that they were ready to bend the rules and allow the former IMF chief time to "recover" and then make an entry into their presidential primary campaign. Hours later, however, Ms Banon's lawyer, David Koubbi, said his client would deliver a formal accusation of attempted rape to the French state prosecution service today.
Mr Koubbi insisted that the decision to press charges was made in the middle of last week. In other words, it was not influenced by the official doubts voiced in New York last Friday about the credibility of the chambermaid who accused Mr Strauss-Kahn of attempting to rape her in a Manhattan hotel. Ms Banon is the goddaughter of Mr Strauss-Kahn's second wife and the daughter of a Socialist party councillor. At the time of the alleged attack, she was 22 years old and a close friend of DSK's daughter, Camille.
Ms Banon and her lawyer came forward just after Mr Strauss-Khan's arrest in New York, but withdrew, saying that they did not want to be "exploited" by the American justice system.
The young woman first recounted her alleged experiences on a French TV chat show in 2007, describing the Socialist former finance minister as "like a chimpanzee in rut", although Mr Strauss-Kahn's name was "beeped".
Ms Banon told the show that Mr Strauss-Khan gave her an interview in 2002 to help her to research a book about political failures. She said: "He wanted to hold my hand and said: 'I can't go on unless you hold my hand'. Then it was my arm and then further than that. It all ended very badly... very, very violently. We scuffled on the ground. I kicked him several times. He undid my bra and he tried to pull down my jeans. As we were fighting, I used the word 'rape' to try to scare him but it didn't scare him."
Later, after she had fought him off, she said Mr Strauss-Kahn sent her a text message which read: "So, I scare you, do I?"
However, she was persuaded by her mother not to press charges.