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Ex-minister Dati's paternity claims head to court

Photo: AFP

A court in France has ordered casino tycoon Dominique Desseigne to take a paternity test based on claims by former justice minister Rachida Dati that he is the father of her child, an allegation he denies.

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A highly publicised paternity test could lead to a pot of gold for a onetime justice minister in France. A court in the well-to-do city of Versailles has ordered hotel and casino mogul Dominique Desseigne to provide a sample of his DNA in a case that blends politics, sex and family fortunes.

Former justice minister Rachida Dati, 46, a protégée of conservative ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, has taken Desseigne to court, alleging that he is the father of her 3-year-old daughter, Zohra.

Dominique Desseigne, 68, is the chairman of Groupe Lucien Barrière (GLB), the leading casino operator in France and Switzerland. GLB also owns dozens of luxury hotels, restaurants and bars across France.
Dominique Desseigne, 68, is the chairman of Groupe Lucien Barrière (GLB), the leading casino operator in France and Switzerland. GLB also owns dozens of luxury hotels, restaurants and bars across France.

But the casino tycoon’s lawyers have rejected the claim, adding that they intend to reveal seven other purported love affairs that Dati juggled at around the same time as her fling with Desseigne in 2007-2008.

The romantic liaisons allegedly included a television presenter, a government minister, a company chairman, a former Spanish prime minister, one of Sarkozy's brothers and a former attorney general of Qatar.

The head of the Lucien Barrière Group (LBG), Desseigne, 68, oversees a luxury hotel and casino empire that pulled in over €1 billion in profits last year. LBG operates no fewer than 37 casinos, 15 luxury hotels and 130 restaurants and bars, including the famed Parisian restaurant Fouquet's.

Dati has long kept the identity of her daughter’s father under wraps, refusing to answer media questions when her pregnancy was made public while she still held the key post of justice minister. But in October, France’s Le Point weekly revealed that she filed a case to get Desseigne to recognise that he is Zohra’s father.

Dati was stripped of her post in a ministerial shake-up in 2009, but has remained in the political limelight as a European MP and the mayor of Paris’s affluent 7th district.

Friends of Desseigne's, quoted by France’s leading daily Le Monde, said last month that Dati had sent him threatening letters, making it clear that she would settle the case out of court in return for a payoff.

Under French law, a court cannot force Desseigne to take a paternity test but it can interpret a refusal as confirming that he is the father, and thus potentially responsible for supporting the child financially.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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