LILLE, France — Dominique Strauss-Kahn had a caustic reaction as four years of legal battles involving sex charges on two continents ended without a single conviction: “All that for this?”

From a sordid New York hotel encounter to orgies in Paris, the former International Monetary Fund chief has admitted to questionable behavior that destroyed his political career and onetime presidential ambitions. He’s a sexual libertine, by his own admission. But courts have repeatedly found no grounds to convict him as a criminal.

Friday’s ruling in the northern French city of Lille closed a sometimes surreal chapter for Strauss-Kahn and for France, where the unusual public airing of his private life sent shock waves through society and upended high-level politics. Some Frenchwomen hoped the scandal would make it easier to hold powerful men accountable for sexual wrongdoing – a hope largely unfulfilled.

In a packed courtroom Friday, a panel of judges acquitted all but one of the 13 defendants of accusations of involvement in a prostitution ring. Strauss-Kahn faced charges of “aggravated pimping,” but the judges said he was not involved in hiring the prostitutes involved or paying them.

That’s what Strauss-Kahn said all along: “All that for this?” he scoffed as he rose to leave the courtroom with his girlfriend and adult daughter. “What a waste.”

The 66-year-old economist freely, even proudly, admitted during the February trial that he took part in sex parties from 2008-2011, while he was heading the IMF and married.