More questions raised about Strauss-Kahn accuser

NEW YORK Sat Jul 2, 2011 6:03pm EDT

1 of 6. A man reads the New York Daily News, which features former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn on its front page, in Manhattan July 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Allison Joyce

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scrutiny of the accuser in the sexual assault case against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn intensified on Saturday after more revelations about her conduct following the purported May 14 attack.

A judge released Strauss-Kahn from house arrest and lifted strict bail conditions on Friday after prosecutors discovered a pattern of lying in the accuser's background, although serious charges including sexual assault and attempted rape remain in place against the man once seen a top French presidential contender.

A new report says the 32-year-old woman, a hotel maid, spoke of the possibility of financial gain from the incident.

In a phone conversation with her boyfriend, who was held in an Arizona jail on suspicion of possessing 400 pounds (180 kg) of marijuana, she said there was money to be made from Strauss-Kahn, a law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation told Reuters on Saturday.

The call was recorded and the woman told her boyfriend she was fine and not to worry about her, the source said.

The New York Times quoted a well-placed law enforcement official as saying: "She says words to the effect of, 'Don't worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I'm doing.'"

On Friday, prosecutors said the accuser lied about being gang-raped in Guinea as part of an application for U.S. asylum and changed details of her story about what she did after the incident in Straus-Kahn's luxury hotel suite.

As the woman's stature falls, that of Strauss-Kahn has rebounded. Some in France are talking about a political comeback, although perhaps not to challenge President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.

Strauss-Kahn's whereabouts on Saturday were unknown. He left his Manhattan townhouse and got into a black sedan, followed by a flock of photographers in vehicles and on motorbikes. His car then pulled into a garage with restricted access and he disappeared, thwarting attempts to follow him further.

Revelations about the accuser have left prosecutors struggling to make a case with a central witness whose credibility would be targeted by Strauss-Kahn's defense lawyers.

Investigators once trumpeted the woman as a devout Muslim who immediately reported that Strauss-Kahn, a steward of the world economy from the French elite, sprang naked from the bathroom and forced her to perform oral sex.

Her lawyer, Kenneth Thompson, came to her defense on Friday, portraying her as a frightened, illiterate woman who remained a victim, her body badly bruised in the encounter.

"The victim here may have made some mistakes but that doesn't mean she's not a rape victim," Thompson said.

(Additional reporting by Allison Joyce in New York and Leila Abboud in Paris; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott)