|Dominique Strauss-Kahn says the case against him hampered his potential to solve the global financial crisis [Reuters]
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has sought the dismissal of a US civil case against him, claiming diplomatic immunity from prosecution and saying a hotel maid's "false" sexual assault claims had hampered his efforts to right the global economy.
Criminal charges were dropped in August when prosecutors were not able to maintain credibility in Nafissatou Diallo's case, but she is pursuing a civil case for undisclosed monetary damages from the French one-time presidential hopeful.
Strauss-Kahn did not claim immunity in the criminal case as the alleged assault happened while he was staying in New York in a personal capacity, but his lawyers appear to think this was not a factor in the civil courts.
"As managing director, which is the chief executive position at the IMF, Mr Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity from civil suit," said a motion filed by his lawyers at a court in the Bronx in New York.
The motion said it made no difference Strauss-Kahn was no longer head of the IMF when Diallo filed her civil case August 8, saying: "Mr Strauss-Kahn's absolute immunity persisted until he was able to leave the United States."
Strauss-Kahn went on the attack in the filing, accusing Diallo of imperiling his efforts, at the helm of the International Monetary Fund, to rescue the world economy at a crucial time after the financial crisis.
"Under Mr Strauss-Kahn's leadership, the IMF was actively engaged in responding to the global economic crisis on several fronts in the spring of 2011," it said.
"As a direct result of [the] plaintiff's false charge of sexual assault, the IMF's ability to serve its critical function in the international economy was significantly impaired at a time of worldwide financial crisis and instability."
Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign as managing director of the IMF when he was arrested in May and charged with the sexual assault and attempted rape of Diallo in his suite at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan.
DNA evidence showed that a sexual encounter did occur between the French economist and the maid, but Strauss-Kahn's defence team insists it was consensual.
Diallo, a 32-year-old Guinean immigrant, maintains her allegations and filed the civil suit against Strauss-Kahn, seeking unspecified damages for what she called a "sadistic" attack.
Her lawyers, Kenneth Thompson and Douglas Wigdor, reacted with scorn on Monday to Strauss-Kahn's attempt to have the case dismissed and said there was no way he would be granted immunity.
"Like his publicity stunt last week in which he was interviewed by a friend of his wife, this baseless motion is another desperate attempt to avoid having to answer for the deplorable acts he committed against Ms Diallo," they said.
"Strauss-Kahn's claim of diplomatic immunity will clearly fail because: one, he is not a diplomat; two, according to his own story he was in New York on 'personal' business; three, he, not the IMF, paid for his room at the Sofitel; and four, he was obviously acting in his personal capacity when he violently attacked Ms Diallo."
Legal experts also said the judge was unlikely to grant Strauss-Kahn immunity.
"To me, even if they can persuade the court that there was immunity while he was employed by the IMF, it is unlikely that they will be able to persuade the judge that the immunity continued even after he resigned from that position," Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor, told the AFP news agency.
Strauss-Kahn, who was seen as a frontrunner in next year's French presidential election before the charges were brought against him, returned to France on September 4.
More than 13 million people tuned in to watch a September 18 prime-time interview Strauss-Kahn gave on French television, in which he made an admission of "a moral failing."
"What happened involved neither violence nor constraint: no criminal act," he insisted.
Strauss-Kahn still faces investigation in France over a separate claim by a young French author, Tristane Banon, that he tried to rape her in 2003.
The Socialist politician has denied any wrongdoing and lodged a countersuit for defamation.