By Peter Allen
Last updated at 10:44 PM on 3rd December 2011
New details have emerged of links between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the hotel where former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a maid.
Until his arrest in May, Mr Strauss-Kahn was the frontrunner to defeat Mr Sarkozy in presidential elections next year.
The sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo – which Mr Strauss-Kahn says was consensual – took place at the New York Sofitel, which is owned by hotel giant Accor.
One of Accor’s senior directors has had a close bond with the French president since Mr Sarkozy – then the mayor of a prosperous Paris suburb – helped rescue his three-year-old daughter from a school siege.
Sebastien Bazin’s daughter, Fleur, was one of 21 children taken hostage at their nursery in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Gunman Erick Schmitt threatened to detonate dynamite – which he had attached to his body and planted in the doors and corners of the classroom – unless he was paid a ransom.
Mr Sarkozy was one of a four-man negotiating team. Schmitt eventually let 15 children go, and the siege came to a dramatic end when hidden cameras revealed that he had dozed off.
Police commandos burst into the classroom, rescued the remaining children and their teacher, and killed Schmitt by shooting him in the head.
The friendship between Mr Bazin, 50, and the president is so strong that Mr Bazin often jokes he has known Mr Sarkozy ‘since kindergarten’. They are also united by a shared passion for the Paris Saint-Germain football club.
Mr Sarkozy was at the Stade de France in Paris on the day of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s arrest to see the team lose 1-0 to Lille in the French Cup Final. With him in the presidential box was Accor security chief Rene-Georges Querry, who worked closely with Mr Sarkozy when he was interior minister.
Mr Querry, who has since left Accor, has denied receiving information about the drama at the Sofitel until after Mr Strauss-Kahn was arrested.
Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, resigned from the IMF after his arrest and abandoned his campaign to become the next French president.
Prosecutors dropped all charges against him in August, but Ms Diallo, 32, is pursuing a civil compensation case.
A Sofitel spokesman denied any knowledge of a conspiracy. Mr Bazin could not be reached for comment.
Sources at Mr Sarkozy’s party headquarters dismissed theories of a conspiracy against Mr Strauss-Kahn as ‘complete fantasy’.