Reporting from New York - Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was hauled off a flight about to leave JFK airport for Paris on Saturday and arrested on allegations he sexually assaulted a maid in a Times Square-area hotel, a police spokesman said.

Strauss-Kahn, who is also an important figure in French politics, was taken to the Harlem headquarters of the Manhattan Special Victims Unit, which investigates rape and other sex crimes. He was charged with committing a criminal sexual act, attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a chambermaid in the luxury suite of a midtown Manhattan hotel, said Paul Browne, deputy New York City police commissioner.

"A 32-year-old chambermaid at a Sofitel on 44th Street said that at about 1 p.m., she entered Mr. Strauss-Kahn's room to clean when he came out of the bathroom naked, pushed her onto the bed and assaulted her," Browne said. The maid told police that before she could escape, Strauss-Kahn forced her to perform oral sex, Browne said.

She immediately told her supervisor, but before investigators could get to Strauss-Kahn's room, he had left the hotel, leaving behind his cellphone and other personal items, Browne said.

His $3,000-per-night luxury suite has a foyer, hallway, living room, bedroom, conference room and bathroom, Browne said.

Police learned the IMF official was booked on a 4:40 p.m. Air France flight bound for Paris and notified airport police to hold the plane, which was turned back as it taxied from the gate. Strauss-Kahn was in his seat when he was taken into custody, Browne said, noting he did not have diplomatic immunity.

The maid was treated for minor injuries at a Manhattan hospital.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said Saturday night that it had no comment; an official of the U.S. Justice Department said "at this time" the case was being handled by New York police and there was no federal jurisdiction.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told The Associated Press that his client will plead not guilty at his expected Sunday afternoon arraignment.

"He denies all the charges against him," Brafman said. "And that's all I can really say right now."

For the last four years, Strauss-Kahn, 62, has been the managing director of the IMF, a lending institution with 186 member countries that helps oversee the global economy.

Within a year of assuming the job, Strauss-Kahn was investigated by the IMF board over whether he had an improper relationship with a former female employee. The board concluded his actions were "regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment" but took no action against its top manager because the relationship was consensual and did not involve any abuse of authority.

A former corporate lawyer and an economics professor at several top French universities, Strauss-Kahn has long been a key player in the French Socialist Party and was considered a likely candidate to challenge French President Nicolas Sarkozy in next May's election.

Sarkozy backed Strauss-Kahn, a political opponent, for the IMF position, though there was speculation that he did so to deprive the Socialists of a popular leader.

Strauss-Kahn has run unsuccessfully to be his party's nominee for president; he has also served as a member of the French National Assembly and as a Cabinet minister in left-leaning governments.

He is married to Anne Sinclair, his third wife, who is a leading television journalist in Paris.

geraldine.baum@latimes.com

Richard A. Serrano, Kathleen Hennessey and Bob Drogin in the Washington Bureau and the Associated Press contributed to this report.