JUBA (Reuters) - Dominique Strauss-Kahn helped to open a new bank in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, on Tuesday, a low-key return to the international stage for the former IMF chief brought down by a sex scandal.
The former French finance minister, who has battled a blizzard of lurid allegations over his private life since the 2011 scandal, was a guest speaker at the opening of the National Credit Bank in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
“Of course you have a lot of problems to solve, of course the future is not going to be easy, but you have a lot of resources, not only natural resources but also human resources,” Strauss-Kahn told a crowd of several hundred people.
South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011, but its attempt to establish itself has been hampered by lingering cross-border tensions, not least a dispute over transit fees that prompted it to stop pumping oil, the lifeblood of its economy, for more than a year.
In a video interview distributed by the bank’s PR representative, Strauss-Kahn noted that South Sudan was “really starting from scratch”, and urged it to avoid a distorting over-reliance on oil and to work for food security and political stability.
Strauss-Kahn, tipped before the scandal as a French presidential candidate, still faces possible trial in France in an investigation into a alleged prostitution network.
The sexual assault charges that brought his IMF career crashing down, made by a New York hotel maid originally from Guinea, were dismissed by a U.S. court. He has always said their sex was consensual, and settled with her in a civil court.
Since separating after the scandal from his wife Anne Sinclair, a wealthy art heiress and well-known journalist, Strauss-Kahn has set up a one-man business consultancy.
The former IMF chief told the French weekly Le Point last year that he was potentially interested in participating in “international projects”, but he declined to give interviews to international media in Juba.
Few in the crowd seemed to knew of Strauss-Kahn’s past as a global financial seer, or his spectacular fall from grace.
“Dominique was ... er ... I don’t know exactly,” said Justin James, manager of the local band playing at the event.
“I think he wanted to change his image and help a newborn country that needs investors.”
Organizers of the bank’s inauguration described it as a venture involving Israeli, Romanian and Sudanese partners, but gave no more details.
Additional reporting by Ulf Laessing in Khartoum; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Kevin Liffey