Correction: Earlier versions of this story reported incorrectly that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had been charged with aggravated pimping. He is in fact at a legal stage between arrest and possible charges, and has been warned by prosecutors that he is under investigation. We regret the error.
Attorney: There is no evidence Strauss-Kahn knew women at sex parties were paid
Other suspects say the former IMF chief did not know, Henri Leclerc says
Strauss-Kahn is warned he is being investigated for "aggravated pimping"
French police are investigating a high-profile prostitution ring in Lille
Lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn pushed back Tuesday against allegations that he facilitated prostitution in France, saying there was “no significant evidence” the former International Monetary Fund chief knew young women at parties he attended were being paid for sex.
Other suspects held over an investigation into prostitution centered around the city of Lille “said that Dominique Strauss-Kahn did not know that these women were being paid,” Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer Henri Leclerc said in a news conference.
“We hear that these women say otherwise. Well, no! I can tell you these women do not say otherwise,” he said.
Strauss-Kahn was formally warned Monday that he is under investigation for “aggravated pimping” for accusations that he participated in a prostitution ring, prosecutors said.
He is not allowed to have contact with other people involved in the investigation, nor is he permitted to talk to the media about the case. Strauss-Kahn was released under a €100,000 ($133,000) bail, according to prosecutors.
Strauss-Kahn is now at a point in the French legal system that comes after an arrest and before formal charges are filed.
He faces allegations of habitual involvement in a prostitution racket.
The description of the alleged crime as “aggravated” means it took place on a regular and involved basis, and “pimping” means facilitating a prostitution operation, not just being a customer.
Leclerc said it was possible to question his client’s morals, but that he had not broken the law.
“We can criticize in terms of virtue, in terms of how a man should conduct himself,” the lawyer said. “But in reality, this is just unruly conduct. You can hate it, you may not find it virtuous – everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but it is not a crime.”
Frederique Beaulieu, another lawyer for Strauss-Kahn, said Tuesday: “You have to remember that in our country having relations with a prostitute is not a crime.”
While prostitution is not illegal in France, profiting from the prostitution of another person is against the law, according to the French Penal Code. Authorities are also investigating whether corporate funds were used to pay for the prostitutes.
Leclerc said in December that there was no evidence that such funds were misappropriated.
Last month, Strauss-Kahn was held for more than 24 hours by police in Lille and questioned about alleged involvement in the prostitution ring.
His attorneys released a statement in November calling the allegations against their client “unhealthy, sensationalist and not without a political agenda.”
The prostitution probe, nicknamed the “Carlton Affair” by the French press, kicked off in October.
It centers around the city of Lille, w3here investigators began looking into claims that luxury hotels, including the Carlton, served as a base for a high-profile prostitution network.
In December, Strauss-Kahn’s attorney Leclerc acknowledged in an interview with radio station Europe1 that his client attended sex parties, but said Strauss-Kahn was unaware the women in attendance were prostitutes.
A hotel manager and four other men were arrested late last year in connection with the investigation.
The Carlton Affair continues a string of sexual allegations against Strauss-Kahn. He has not been convicted of any crime.
One of the sex scandals torpedoed his expected run for the French presidency this year. He stepped down from the top job at the IMF after that incident, in which a New York hotel maid accused him of sexual assault and attempted rape in May. He denied the accusation.
The case ultimately fell apart after prosecutors decided they could not be sure about the credibility of the alleged victim, despite forensic evidence that showed a sexual encounter had occurred.
Strauss-Kahn also faced allegations of attempted rape from a young French writer. Tristane Banon filed a complaint, alleging a 2003 attack, though it could not be pursued because of a statute of limitations.
Strauss-Kahn denied the allegations and has since filed a countersuit in France, alleging slander.
CNN’s Brian Walker contributed to this report.