Rock legend SIR Elton John has been ordered to pay over $22,000 (GBP15,000) in legal fees, after losing a lawsuit against a French antique dealer.

The ROCKET MAN accused Parisian JEAN RENONCOURT of selling him fake antique marble carvings.

Elton bought four 18th century mythological statues from Renoncourt for $375,000 (GBP250,000) in 1996.

But when he had them valued in 2001, an expert ruled the Olympian gods were fakes worth between $3,000 (GBP2,000) and $5,000 (GBP3,300).

A report by specialist Simon Yates noted that a number of similar carvings on the market in recent years cast doubt over the authenticity of the statues.

But a French judge ruled in favour of Renoncourt - insisting Yates's report was "mere allegations".

Celebrating the victory, Renoncourt accused British auction house CHRISTIES - for whom both Yates and the singers' lawyer have worked - for the controversy.

He said, "In my view, Christies are behind this.

"It's an open secret that whenever a millionaire starts spending money on antiques in France, the Anglo-Saxon auction houses try to discredit what they bought here to lure them back home."

Renoncourt plans to sue for damages.

01/05/2003 13:10