Until New York police unceremoniously plucked him from an Air France flight heading to Paris in May 2011, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a high flyer in global financial and political circles.

As head of the International Monetary Fund, the charismatic 63-year-old economist was widely considered to have invigorated the global financial body. He was also seen as the strongest Socialist Party contender to take on French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.

Those hopes and accomplishments, however, have taken a back seat to a series of sensational allegations of sexual misconduct.

Strauss-Kahn resigned from his IMF post in May 2011 days after Nafissatou Diallo, a maid at a Sofitel hotel in New York, came forward with allegations that the IMF chief had forced her to perform oral sex on him when she came to clean his hotel room.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges against Strauss-Kahn, which had included attempted rape and unlawful confinement, because they feared Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, undermined her credibility when she lied about her background and changed her account of the incident.

Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon heard arguments in March 2012 on the civil case, and was expected to rule May 1 on whether to allow Diallo’s sexual assault lawsuit to go ahead.

Prostitution ring links latest in series of allegations

After the May 2011 incident in New York, another woman, a French writer, came forward alleging Strauss-Kahn had tried to rape her in 2003. Prosecutors didn't pursue charges in that case because the statute of limitations had expired.

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A car carrying Dominique Strauss-Kahn is mobbed by media as it enters a police station in Lille on Feb. 21, 2012. The former head of the International Monetary Fund was questioned in connection with an investigation into a prostitution ring allegedly run out of the Carlton Hotel in Lille and involving high-profile businessmen and local officials. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Strauss-Kahn found himself in hot water again in February 2012 when French police took him into custody in connection with their investigation of a prostitution ring they suspected was being run out of a luxury hotel in the city of Lille in northern France.

They questioned Strauss-Kahn for two days about allegations several prostitutes had made that they had had sex with him in 2010 and 2011 at sex parties organized at hotels in Lille, Paris and Washington, D.C.

Police are investigating whether the women at the parties were paid using corporate funds from a large French construction company and whether Strauss-Kahn knew they were prostitutes.

Eight people have been charged in the case, including executives at the Carlton Hotel in Lille, a well-known lawyer, the local deputy police chief and two businessmen who are acquaintances of Strauss-Kahn.

Strauss-Kahn is to appear before magistrates in March 2012, but it is unclear whether he will do so as a defendant or merely a witness.

Helped bring Socialists to power

Known as "DSK" in the French press, the former Socialist finance minister was born in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

Some of his early years were spent in Morocco, but after an earthquake there, his family moved to Monaco. They later returned to Paris, where he attended school, eventually obtaining a law degree and graduating with a PhD in economics from the University of Paris. He has also studied business administration, political science and statistics.

He joined France's Socialist Party in 1976 and was elected to the National Assembly in 1986.

From 1991 to 1993, he was minister of industry and international trade.

Two years later, he was elected mayor in the poor Parisian suburb of Sarcelles and later devised the economic policy that helped propel the Socialists to power and Strauss-Kahn to the post of finance minister in 1997.

In that role, which he held until 1999, he managed the launch of the euro. He resigned after being involved in a Socialist Party funding scandal. He was subsequently acquitted.

Strauss-Kahn also served as personal adviser to the secretary general of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development and has taught economics at the Institut d'études politiques de Paris.

Between 2001 and 2007, he was elected three times to the National Assembly.

In 2007, he became the 10th managing director of the IMF, leaving Paris for Washington and later earning international praise for his guidance at the organization's helm during the global economic downturn.

Extramarital affairs no secret

His private life, however, has not been without controversy. Strauss-Kahn's extramarital affairs have long been considered an open secret and have gotten him in trouble in the past. 

The thrice-married father of four apologized for "a serious error in judgment" after the IMF investigated him over a possible abuse of power involving a brief relationship with an IMF subordinate. He was cleared in that incident.

Strauss-Kahn's first marriage came at 18 to his high school sweetheart. He married his second wife in 1984. His third wife, French television journalist Anne Sinclair, stood by him during the IMF investigation and came to his defence after the maid's allegations of attempted rape surfaced.

In a statement made to the French news agency AFP at the time, the New York-born Sinclair said: "I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established."

With files from The Associated Press