The father of young Slumdog Millionaire actress Rubina Ali has denied trying to sell his daughter after a tabloid sting.

The News of the World deployed a 'fake sheikh' who posed as a wealthy businessman from Dubai who was prepared to offer money to adopt Rubina, nine.

Her father Rafiq Qureshi has since labelled the tabloid claims as "lies" though he admitted to having met with a man who showed interest in Rubina.

"They said that sheikh's wife wanted to adopt Rubina but I said: 'I can't give away my child'," he told Indian news wire service PTI.

"They called me again the next day and talked in English. I could not understand but said yes to whatever they said.

"I will never sell Rubina. All these allegations are false. It is a conspiracy to malign my reputation. The voice in the video is not mine."

Rubina, who played the child version of Latika in Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, was also quoted as saying: "I want to remain with [my father]."

The Sunday newspaper claimed Qureshi had demanded 20 million rupees (around £200,000) for his daughter's adoption during a meeting at a Mumbai hotel.

"I have to consider what's best for me, my family and Rubina's future," Qureshi was alleged to have said while meeting the undercover reporters, adding his family had not been "looked after" by the makers of Slumdog Millionaire.

His brother was also said to have claimed Rubina's fame increased her value, saying: "The child is special now. This is not an ordinary child. This is an Oscar child."

Rubina's mother Kursheed, who is separated from Qureshi, is believed to have made a complaint to police about his behaviour after learning of his apparent intention to sell their daughter.

20/04/2009 08:43:55