DSK returns to spotlight – in South Sudan

Since being caught up in a global sex scandal in 2011 Dominique Strauss-Kahn has tried to lay low but on Monday he appeared to face the media, not in Paris, New York or Lille, but in South Sudan where he opened a bank account.

DSK returns to spotlight - in South Sudan
DSK makes his return to spotlight in South Sudan. File photo: AFP

Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrived in South Sudan Monday to open a bank, a rare public return to the financial world since a dramatic fall from grace after a sex
scandal two years ago.

"I believe that a country like South Sudan deserves some special attention," he told reporters at the airport after his arrival, saying he would open a new bank, named as the National Credit Bank (NCB), as well as assess the investment opportunities in the impoverished country.

"It is a new country and still with a lot of economic and political problems….it wants to have the full opportunity for development and business," Strauss-Kahn said at the start of a two-day visit.

Little is known about the NCB bank, although officials said it is a Swiss-backed private venture launched in cooperation with South Sudanese partners.

Straus-Kahn was greeted at the airport by South Sudan's Minister of Commerce Garang Diing.

"This visit is very important to us… especially in relation to investment attraction to South Sudan," Diing said.

"He wants to see how South Sudan is prospering in terms of peace, stability, democracy and economic performance," Diing added.

The one-time French presidential hopeful and former head of the International Monetary Fund, Strauss-Kahn resigned from his post after New York hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo accused him of sexual assault in May 2011.

In August 2011, prosecutors dropped criminal charges, declaring that Diallo was not a credible witness.

Strauss-Kahn quickly returned to France even though the maid maintained a civil suit, later settled after Strauss-Kahn agreed a financial settlement.

Oil-rich but grossly under-developed South Sudan is the world's youngest country, after splitting from former civil war foes north Sudan in July 2011, following an overwhelming vote for independence six months earlier.

Development since independence has been stalled after South Sudan closed down the oil production that accounted for 98 percent of government revenue last year in a furious dispute with Sudan, only resuming production last month.

Rebellion, ethnic conflict and hunger affect large parts of the country, left in ruins by nearly five decades of civil war.

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Merkel’s conservative party moves to clean up after ‘mask affair’

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are trying to end corruption allegations roiling their ranks over mask procurement, ordering MPs to declare all financial gains related to the pandemic days ahead of key regional elections.

Merkel's conservative party moves to clean up after 'mask affair'
Angela Merkel on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

A lawmaker from Merkel’s CDU party and another from its CSU Bavarian sister party have been accused of profiting directly or indirectly from mask contracts.

In a move to clean house, the conservative CDU-CSU alliance on Wednesday ordered all of its MPs to declare any financial benefits gained from the coronavirus pandemic by 6pm on Friday.

All members of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group will have to make “a declaration that no such benefits were obtained in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, says the letter addressed to the lawmakers, dated March 10th.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s face mask scandal

This declaration must take into account any financial benefits “from the purchase or sale of medical products such as protective equipment, testing and vaccination supplies, from the provision of contacts, from the forwarding of offers or enquiries, or from the provision of support or advice to third parties”, the letter seen by AFP says.

In the event that such a declaration cannot be made, MPs are urged to report directly to two senior party members.

CSU lawmaker Georg Nüsslein was last month placed under investigation for corruption following accusations that he accepted around €600,000 ($715,000) to lobby for a mask supplier.

A similar controversy has embroiled CDU lawmaker Nikolas Löbel, whose company pocketed 250,000 euros in commissions for acting as an intermediary in mask contracts.

Löbel has resigned from his MP post and Nüsslein has said he will leave after September’s elections, with the deals drawing scathing criticism across the political spectrum.

Amid the fallout from the scandal dubbed the “mask affair” by German media, the conservatives said they had “a responsibility to present and clarify such matters in a completely transparent manner”.

The scandal has led to a drop in the CDU’s popularity ratings just days ahead of two key regional elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

The state elections will be a litmus test ahead of Germany’s general election on September 26th – the first in over 15 years not to feature outgoing chancellor Merkel.