Inquiry into 'plot' to sell Slumdog star

Family tension boils over as actress's father denies newspaper's claims

Indian police have begun an investigation into claims that the father of a star of the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire tried to sell her for £200,000.

Rafiq Qureshi yesterday issued a strong denial of allegations in the News of the World that he agreed a deal to allow nine-year-old Rubina Ali to be adopted in return for the six-figure fee agreed with undercover reporters posing as representatives of a wealthy family in Dubai.

But officers in Mumbai, where the British-funded film about a boy winning a television game show was set in the city's teeming slums, said they had formally questioned Mr Qureshi about the claims after receiving a complaint from Rubina's biological mother, Khurshid, that her former husband was trying to sell their daughter.

It is understood Khurshid has filed a claim that she was told of Mr Qureshi's alleged plans for Rubina as long as two weeks ago, pre-dating his meetings with the News of the World reporters.

Nisar Tamboli, deputy commissioner of Mumbai police, said that Mr Qureshi had been called to a police station on Sunday to make a statement. Mr Tamboli told Reuters: "Rubina's mother, Khurshid, complained to us that her ex-husband was trying to sell her daughter, saying she saw some reports on television to that effect."

The simmering tensions between the members of Rubina's family in the Garib Nagar slum boiled over yesterday when Khurshid, who separated from her husband when her daughter was two, came to blows with Mr Qureshi's second wife, Munni, in front of gathered media.

The two women slapped each other across the face and tore at each other's hair with Rubina standing yards away as they traded insults and allegations about seeking to cash in on the schoolgirl's success with Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars and has taken £185m at box offices worldwide.

Munni said: "Khushi has been after Rubina since the time she went to the Oscars. For seven years before that, she didn't care. Why would we sell Rubina? She is her father's favourite."

Despite an undertaking from the makers of the film to fund the education of Rubina and its other child stars, Mr Qureshi was reported to have complained that his family had not received a sufficient share of the proceeds.

The Sunday newspaper claimed it held meetings with Mr Qureshi and his brother-in-law during which the £200,000 "compensation" was agreed in return for the child going to live with a Middle Eastern family. But Mr Qureshi, a carpenter, rejected the allegations, saying he had attended a hotel to meet the reporters because of an offer of a job. He told the BBC: "They tricked us into fakery but we came out unscathed."

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