A court today ordered a billionaire businessman to undergo ‘expert tests’ to see if he fathered a child with former French justice minister Rachida Dati.
The 47-year-old insists that Dominique Desseigne, 68, fathered Zohra, now three, in 2008 during a short but passionate affair.
But Mr Desseigne says it could have been any one of around eight ‘secret’ lovers Ms Dati had at the time and has refused to take a DNA test.
The matter was today adjudicated upon by judges sitting in a closed court in Versailles, west of Paris, in which they ruled there was a case for Mr Desseigne being tested by scientific experts.
Technically, Mr Desseigne is within his rights to still refuse a DNA test.
But if other evidence points to him being the father, refusal to take the test will be seen as ‘proof’ that he is.
‘The purpose of the ruling is to establish beyond reasonable doubt whether Mr Desseigne is indeed the child’s father,’ said a Versailles legal source.
‘Once tests have taken place, the court will set another date for further proceedings.’
If Ms Dati wins her case, she and her daughter will be in line for a massive pay-out from Mr Desseigne, whose casino and restaurant empire is worth approaching £1billion.
This will complete an extraordinary rags-to-riches tale as Ms Dati is the daughter of impoverished Muslim immigrants to France from north Africa.
Her parents were an illiterate Moroccan bricklayer and an Algerian cleaner.
She grew up on a council estate near Lyon, and had to take a number of menial jobs to pay her way through college.
Yet through sheer perseverance she finally earned a place in the French government.
Ms Dati was made a minister in 2007 by the then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, but struggled in the job before she was unceremoniously fired just five days after giving birth and told to stand as an MEP.
Many accused her of spending more time on her love life and appearing in glossy magazines than on her work.
Mr Sarkozy is said to have reduced her to tears when he told her: ‘Either you leave for Brussels or you leave with nothing.’
She encouraged constant speculation about her ‘secret’ lovers, at one stage saying that Zohra’s father was a successful businessman who travelled abroad a lot.
Mr Desseigne told friends before the case went to court: ‘I won’t give in on anything, because I have behaved correctly, and done nothing wrong.’
His lawyer ‘counted eight’ lovers around the time she fell pregnant, including a television broadcaster, a minister and a Qatari attorney-general.
Ms Dati, who is now an MEP and Paris mayor, has tried to keep her case against Mr Desseigne a secret, at one point flatly denying that she had taken legal action against him.
In February 2009, she was voted the best representative of Gallic womanhood in the world, beating actress Sophie Marceau and Mr Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni.
She followed in a long list of internationally famous female icons including Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve after receiving 26 per cent of votes in the poll by Reader’s Digest Selection magazine.