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Editor denies London liaison - Whose baby is it? Indian sucked into controversy

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 6.03.05

London, March 6: M.J. Akbar, editor of The Asian Age, has emphatically denied he is the father of Kimberly Fortier?s month-old baby in an interview with the Mail on Sunday.

Akbar, 54, insisted he had not even had a ?Clinton moment? with Fortier, the former lover of David Blunkett, who had to resign last year as Britain?s home secretary.

Kimberly has two children, a two-year-old boy, William, and a baby son, Lorcan, who was born in London last month.

It is generally accepted because of DNA evidence that William?s father is Blunkett, who had a three-year affair with Kimberly, a 44-year-old vivacious American woman who holds the title of the publisher of The Spectator magazine in London.

Kimberly is married to Stephen Quinn, 60, who works for Vogue magazine and who has never claimed to be the ?biological? father of either child. His only interest, he has repeatedly stressed, is to protect his wife and his family.

When DNA tests proved that Blunkett, 57, was not Lorcan?s father, as many in Britain had assumed, the finger of suspicion was pointed by a source on The Spectator at ?a media figure who is prominent in India?.

After this phrase had appeared in yesterday?s Sun, journalists on Sunday papers in Britain hit the phones, ringing up their Indian contacts in Britain and in India.

The Sun was careful not to name Akbar. Nor has today?s Sunday Times done so, although it has a frontpage story, ?Indian tycoon dragged into Blunkett baby battle?.

The paper says: ?The claims were described as ?absolutely absurd? and ?silly? by the businessman. Friends of Quinn also agreed it was ?impossible? that she and the tycoon had been lovers.?

Late editions of the Mail on Sunday, however, named Akbar as ?the mysterious Asian at the centre of the latest speculation in the outlandish Kimberly Quinn affair?.

The Mail on Sunday also carried a first person account by a Heidi Kingstone, billed as ?a close friend of the Quinns, M.J. Akbar and Blunkett?, entitled, ?My flirty date with the Asian?.

The Mail on Sunday has photographs of Stephen Quinn with a bunch of lovely yellow roses for his wife (all of Britain is agreed the man is an angel); one of his wife Kimberly pushing a pram with baby Lorcan; a head shot of Akbar; and another of his smiling wife, Mallika, with her dog in a garden.

In Britain, Akbar is not that well known but this kind of publicity, even if based on fantasy, might do him no end of good. On the strength of it, he could manoeuvre his way on to TV chat shows, write long and well paid newspaper articles and procure the odd book contract or two.

Alas, such a ploy is undermined by his wife, ?who was more amused than angry? when contacted by the Mail on Sunday.

Her line, paraphrased, was: yes, he could be a bit naughty at times but, on this occasion, she didn?t think her husband was guilty.

?I?ve only just heard about it,? she told the paper, laughing. ?It?s amazing. It?s not that he?s not capable of doing such a thing, but for once I don?t think it?s true.?

Mallika also revealed: ?I met Kimberly in London. She was very friendly and very sweet. If it were true, I would be very disappointed, but I don?t think it is.?

Yesterday?s Sun said that Lorcan was ?conceived between May 21 and May 24 last year?.

A good way for Akbar to show he is not the father is to make his passport details available. In today?s Sunday Times, the unnamed ?Asian tycoon? said: ?It?s absurd, I?ve known her (Kimberly) for many years (but) we are just friends. These are serious issues and in all honesty I feel very bad for her. She must be going through hell.?

The ?tycoon? added that ?he was not even in London in May last year when Lorcan was conceived?.

That would appear to put Akbar in the clear, and his denial is carried in the Mail on Sunday, which managed to track down Mohammed Jalaluddin Akbar, as the paper calls him, in Istanbul where he was ?on one of his many international business trips?.

This is a typical British tabloid way of countering Akbar?s point that he was not in London in May.

Akbar was candid with the Mail on Sunday. ?Of course, I know her (Kimberly),? he said. ?We have a professional relationship as I publish Spectator pieces in my newspaper, but if you are implying something else, that?s not true.?

Akbar commented: ?This is not a denial of the Simon Hoggart kind.?

This was a reference to initial denial by the Guardian columnist that he had been sexually involved with Kimberly. Later, he admitted he had.

Akbar said: ?I would have been more devious in my responses if there was even marginal truth in it. It is absolutely not true.?

On the face of it, Akbar?s account seems convincing but it is not entirely clear why the Mail on Sunday has run a longish piece by Canadian-born Heidi Kingstone of her evening with Akbar.

?We had been introduced by Kimberly, and MJ invited me for drinks and dinner,? she recalled. ?He seemed charming, affluent and intelligent.?

She said: ?Kimberly often spoke of MJ and clearly found him fascinating.?

She spoke of the dinner with Akbar: ?He became flirtatious. I had the strong impression he was propositioning me. I remember feeling that if I wanted to take this further, we could end up in bed.?

Akbar?s best response might be to laugh off the stories. If untrue, the agenda will soon move on. Should he decide to take on British newspapers, especially the tabloids, he will discover they can be pretty merciless and employ a battery of investigative journalists to dig up every aspect of his life.

PTI adds from London: Outraged over what he termed ?malicious? reports in the British media that he had fathered the second child of Kimberly Quinn, Akbar has issued legal notices seeking substantial damages, apology and retraction.

?Legal notices have been issued to all these papers. We are taking substantive action against anyone who has named me and who has indulged in the malicious, defamatory and false accusation,? he said.

His lawyer in the UK, Badresh Gohil, said notices had been sent to the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Telegraph and the Sunday Times asking them to refrain from publishing or printing Akbar?s name. The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph complied with the notice, but the other one did not, Gohil said.

?Now, we will be issuing proceedings for substantial damages, apology and retraction,? he said.