Serbia's government has introduced a controversial economic adviser whose financial gravitas is arguably matched only by the gravity of the sexual charges that have dogged him for the past two years.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the libidinous former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and onetime Socialist hope for the French presidency who's still facing charges at home of "aggravated pimping," told reporters at his introductory presser alongside Serbia's prime minister in Belgrade on September 17 that he's got "no magic stick" for the Serbian economy.
"I am not saying than my team [or] myself are going to provide any kind of magic stick or silver bullet that will solve problems, but I believe that we can help -- with humility -- that we can help the [Serbian] government to make the right decision."
It's an interesting choice of words for a man whose political ambitions were derailed by an attempted-rape allegation and what might generously be described as sexual peccadilloes.
But it's also just the sort of language that his new employers are hoping to hear.
And if the chintzy green couch (see video) wasn't enough to remind Strauss-Kahn of what he and his latest employer are up against, he need only check Serbia's key economic indicators.
The Socialist-led government is facing growing public debt and rising deficits, 24 percent unemployment, and stubborn obstacles to the restructuring of state-owned enterprises.
"Enough with the sick economy, we want to heal," Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said at the same press conference, according to RFE/RL's Balkan Service.
Strauss-Kahn and his team are said to be working pro bono for three months, but that's presumably just long enough to acquaint themselves with what they're facing.
"He was not happy when he saw what awaited him," Vucic told Serbia's state broadcaster last month, after word leaked of Strauss-Kahn's possible advisory role, adding, "but he has already suggested a few solutions."
Strauss-Kahn was accused in May 2011 by a New York hotel maid of rape and hauled off a Europe-bound airplane in the United States, where he spent most of the next two months in jail or under house arrest.
Prosecutors dropped that case, but other women came forward with allegations of sexual impropriety that raised questions about Strauss-Kahn's judgment and doomed his expected bid for the Socialist nomination for the French presidency. French authorities have since tied him to a prostitution ring and sex parties at luxury hotels in Washington, Paris, and Lille, where the most serious of the lingering charges alleges that he pimped.
As one unidentified "senior political source in Belgrade" told the "Independent
" in late July or early August, "This is Serbia, there are a lot of people here with all kinds of 'baggage,' as we know."
Strauss-Kahn has insisted that while he is sexually active outside his marriage and enjoys "libertine" parties, he was unaware that the women involved were prostitutes.
He has since abandoned politics per se; or perhaps more correctly, politics has abandoned him. Reports say he works for a French boutique investment bank called Arjil. He is said to also be working for companies in Africa, Latin America, and Russia, where he's a board member for a banking subsidiary of oil giant Rosneft.
"The great Picasso treated women and children badly, and some other people, including Hitler, loved women," Vucic told state television last week, according to Reuters. "If you want to judge by that, then you can judge Strauss-Kahn negatively."
Vucic says former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer will also help advise Belgrade on economic affairs. Gusenbauer can only wonder if as much attention awaits him on his arrival later this week.
-- Andy Heil