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Kahn accuser’s call alarmed prosecutors

July 2: Twenty-eight hours after a housekeeper at the Sofitel New York said she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, she spoke by phone to a boyfriend in an immigration jail in Arizona.

Investigators with the Manhattan district attorney’s office learned the call had been recorded and had it translated from a “unique dialect of Fulani”, a language from the woman’s native country, Guinea, according to a well-placed law enforcement official.

When the conversation was translated a job completed only this Wednesday investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of: ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’” the official said.

It was another ground-shifting revelation in a continuing series of troubling statements, fabrications and associations that unravelled the case and upended prosecutors’ view of the woman. Once, in the hours after she said she was attacked on May 14, she had been a “very pious, devout Muslim woman, shattered by this experience”, the official said a seemingly ideal witness.

Little by little, her credibility as a witness crumbled she had lied about her immigration, about being gang raped in Guinea, about her experiences in her homeland and about her finances, according to two law enforcement officials. She had been linked to people suspected of crimes. She changed her account of what she did immediately after the encounter with Strauss-Kahn. Sit-downs with prosecutors became tense, even angry.

Initially composed, she later collapsed in tears and got down on the floor during questioning. She became unavailable to investigators from the district attorney’s office for days at a time.

Now the phone call raised yet another problem: it seemed as if she hoped to profit from whatever occurred in Suite 2806.

The story of the woman’s six-week journey from seemingly credible victim, in the eyes of prosecutors, to a deeply unreliable witness, is drawn from interviews with law enforcement officials, statements from the woman’s lawyer and a letter from prosecutors to Strauss-Kahn’s defence team released in court yesterday. Some of the events were confirmed by both law enforcement officials and the women’s lawyer; others rely solely on law enforcement officials. In the end, it was the prosecutors’ assessment of the housekeeper’s credibility that led them to downgrade their confidence in the case and agree yesterday that Strauss-Kahn could be freed from house arrest.

In the beginning, her relationship with prosecutors was strong. Her account seemed solid. Over time, the well-placed official said, they discovered that she was capable of telling multiple, inconsistent versions of what appeared to be important episodes in her life.

After the encounter with Strauss-Kahn, she asked her supervisor at Sofitel: “Can any guest at the hotel do anything they want with us?” her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, said during a sidewalk news conference yesterday defending her. The supervisor called security, and officers, finding semen on the floor and wall, called the police, setting off the quick chain of events that led to police officers escorting Strauss-Kahn off an Air France plane set to depart Kennedy International Airport.

Suspicions of the woman’s associations arose relatively quickly: within a week of Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, the authorities learned of a recorded conversation between the subject of a drug investigation and another man, who said his companion was the woman involved in the Strauss-Kahn matter, according to another law enforcement official.

Prosecutors and investigators interviewed the woman at length.

Her immigration history was a focus. At first, she told them what she told immigration officials seven years ago in her accounts of how she fled Guinea and her application for asylum on December 30, 2004.

She described soldiers destroying the home where she lived with her husband, and said they were both beaten because of their opposition to the regime. She said her husband died in jail.

But then, in a subsequent interview with Manhattan prosecutors, she said the story was false

The boyfriend in the Arizona detention centre was another issue. He had been arrested while bartering counterfeit designer clothing from Manhattan’s Chinatown for marijuana in the Southwest, the well-placed law enforcement official said.

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