IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a possible candidate for the French presidency, was detained for questioning in an alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid, New York City police told AFP.
Strauss-Kahn, a Socialist who was widely expected to challenge President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012, was removed from an Air France flight minutes before its scheduled departure from John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said.
"We took him into custody and we handed him over to the New York City police department," an official for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We did it at the request of NYPD."
Authorities were investigating an alleged attack on a maid at the Sofitel New York hotel earlier in the day, police said.
NYPD spokesman Officer Michael DeBonis told AFP by phone late Saturday that Strauss-Kahn has "been taken into custody. He's being questioned about an alleged sexual assault. He has not been charged."
DeBonis would not comment on any other details. Detective Brian Sessa told AFP that as of 9:40 pm (0140 GMT) no charges had been filed.
The Port Authority official said Strauss-Kahn, 62, was removed from the flight 10 minutes before departure, at 4:45 pm (16:45 GMT).
"Ten minutes before a flight takes off? That doesn't happen too often," the official said. "He did not resist."
This is not Strauss-Kahn's first run-in with sexual allegations. In 2008, he had an affair with a Hungarian IMF economist. The IMF investigated and concluded he didn't exert pressure on the woman, but noted his inappropriate behavior.
John Sheehan, director of security at Sofitel New York, told AFP by phone that they are cooperating with the probe.
"The Sofitel is working very closely with the NYPD with their investigation," Sheehan said. "The safety and security of our clients and team members are of the utmost priority to us."
Sheehan would not comment further.
Strauss-Kahn's stint at the helm of the IMF in Washington does not officially end until September 2012, several months after the scheduled date of France's vote.
But the French political world has been buzzing with speculation that the man popularly known as "DSK" would bring a premature end to his tenure and throw his hat in the ring, as the Socialist Party's candidate.
Some opinion polls have suggested he would defeat Sarkozy if he were to run.
Strauss-Kahn became head of the International Monetary Fund in November 2007, pledging to push reforms of the 186-member country institution that helps oversee the global economy.
Source: AFP Global Edition