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Mohamed Al Fayed questioned on assault case

/ Source: The Associated Press

Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed was questioned by police over allegations that he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The Daily Mail and Sky News reported that the girl accused Al Fayed of assaulting her at his flagship central London department store.

"Mr. Al Fayed vehemently denies this allegation and is confident that his name will be cleared," spokeswoman Katharine Witty said in a brief televised statement. She said he went to the police station voluntarily and that the interview lasted less than half an hour.

The Daily Mail said the unnamed girl first met the 75-year-old multimillionaire while shopping with her mother at his store, one of London's top tourist attractions. It said she alleged she was invited back to the store, where Al Fayed forcibly kissed her. It did not cite a source for its reporting.

London's Metropolitan Police refused to confirm whether they spoke to Al Fayed. But when asked about the reports, a force spokesman said a man was questioned under caution Wednesday "in connection with an allegation of sexual assault against a girl under 16 at a business premises in central London."

The spokesman said the investigation was continuing but did not elaborate. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with force policy.

Al Fayed's empire
Al Fayed sits at the top of a retail and hotel empire. He bought the lease to the Ritz in Paris in 1979, became executive chairman of Harrods in 1989 and also owns Fulham football club. The Sunday Times Rich List values him at $898 million.

The magnate is best known in Britain for his son Ddi Fade's ill-fated romance with Diana, Princess of Wales.

The couple died in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997. British and French investigators concluded that their driver was drunk at the time of the crash, a finding backed by an inquest into the couple's death which concluded in April. Al Fayed claimed the pair were the victim of a royal plot.

He spent lavishly to investigate the crash and prove his son and Diana were assassinated by British secret agents, although after the close of the inquest he announced he was abandoning his quixotic quest for the sake of Diana's children, princes William and Harry.