French prosecutors on Tuesday recommended the dismissal of pimping charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, signalling a possible end to the former IMF chief's legal battle over sex scandals that destroyed his career.
Strauss-Kahn was charged last year with helping to procure prostitutes for sex parties in one of a string of cases that came to light after he was forced to resign from his IMF job over an alleged sex attack on a New York hotel maid.
But the prosecutor's office in the northern city of Lille, where some of the parties took place, announced Tuesday that it considered the evidence against Strauss-Kahn and one other man, Jean-Luc Vergin, as insufficient for them to be sent to trial.
The prosecutor recommended that 12 other men be tried but said the gravity of their alleged pimping should be downgraded by dropping a charge that they had operated as part of an organised gang.
The judge in charge of the case now has a month to decide whether to follow the prosecutor's advice or to insist on Strauss-Kahn standing trial.
In France it is not unusual for judges to ignore prosecutors' recommendations but Strauss-Kahn's lawyers voiced confidence their client would be cleared.
"I'm happy the prosecutor shares our view that there is no admissible evidence of any crime or offence having been committed," lawyer Henri Leclerc said.
A Belgian pimp who is one of the men facing charges in the so-called Carlton affair said earlier this year that Strauss-Kahn could not have been involved in organising the call girls because he was too busy with his work at the IMF.
Strauss-Kahn, 64, admits attending sex parties in France and the United States but insists he did not know some of the women were being paid.
His lawyers have argued that he could not have known they were prostitutes because he had only ever seen them naked.
If the pimping charges are dropped, Strauss-Kahn will have emerged from two years of legal turmoil without having been convicted of any crime.
It is thought unlikely that he will be able to resurrect his political career in light of the damage his reputation has suffered but he has appeared to be preparing for a return to public life.
Last month he was snapped on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival in the company of a new girlfriend and he also presided over the opening of South Sudan's new National Credit Bank.
In December, he agreed to pay undisclosed damages -- reportedly in excess of $1.5 million -- to Nafissatou Diallo, a New York hotel maid whose 2011 allegation of sexual assault forced him to resign from his IMF job and wrecked his chances of becoming French president.
Strauss-Kahn admitted a sexual encounter took place but insisted it was consensual. A criminal probe into the incident collapsed after the maid changed her version of events, leading prosecutors to conclude there was little chance of a conviction.
The Lille pimping case was one of a series of probes that were launched in the aftermath of Strauss-Kahn's arrest in New York.
French writer Tristane Banon accused him of trying to rape her in 2003. Investigators concluded that while there was evidence of sexual assault, the alleged attack had occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.
Strauss-Kahn was also investigated over an allegation that he had taken part in the gang rape of a Belgian prostitute. The case was dropped when she recanted and said she had consented to sex.
Prior to his arrest in New York, DSK, as he is known in France, had looked certain to secure the Socialist Party's nomination as its candidate for the 2012 presidential election.
As it was, Strauss-Kahn's fall from grace cleared the way for party insider Francois Hollande to claim the nomination and he went on to comfortably defeat the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
Strauss-Kahn subsequently separated from his third wife, Anne Sinclair, a former newsreader and a wealthy heiress who reportedly helped him pay off Diallo.