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Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair and David Mills

John Simkin

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I would be interested in hearing from our European friends (especially those in Italy) if the David Mills-Tessa Jowell story is getting much publicity in your newspapers.

David Mills is the husband of the Cabinet Minister, Tessa Jowell. Mills is a former lawyer who now provides advice on how millionaires can avoid paying tax. It is alleged in the Italian courts that Mills accepted a £350,000 bribe from the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. This money was then used to pay off part of a £480,000 mortgage taken out by Mills and Jowell on their home.

The route of this money is very interesting. In December, 1999, Mills received a £350,000 cheque from Berlusconi. After ping-ponging through at least seven accounts in the Caribbean, Gibraltar and Switzerland, it ended up in a hedge fund in New York. In November, 2000, Mills and Jowell take the money from the hedge fund to pay off their Kentish Town mortgage.

Mills denies the money was from Berlusconi and was in fact a gift from another Italian businessmen, Diego Attanasio. The problem for Mills is that Attanasio denies this and was in fact in prison at the time this gift of money was given (Mills has never explained why Attanasio should have given him £350,000).

The other problem for Mills is that he has already told the truth to his accountant, Bob Drennan. In February, 2004, Mills wrote to his accountant and told him that Mr B (Berlusconi) had given him a gift of “$600,000” as a result of evidence he had given in court on behalf of Berlusconi: “I had been able to give my evidence (I told no lies, but I turned some very tricky corners, to put it mildly) had kept Mr. B out of a great deal of trouble that I would have landed him in if I had said all I knew.” Bob Drennan reported Mills to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, as he suspected his client of being involved in illegal activities. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Drennan would have been breaking the law if he had not done this.

This information was eventually passed to Fabio de Pasquale, the chief prosecutor in the Silvio Berlusconi case. He then asked for Mills to be extradited to Italy. Instead of that happening, the Home Office passed this “extremely sensitive information” to Berlusconi.

It also has to be remembered that Tony Blair is a good friend of Silvio Berlusconi. They take holidays together in Italy. These take place in Berlusconi’s villas. I assume the Blairs are not charged rent for these holidays. Anyway, I am sure they are working holidays. Gives them the opportunity to devise new strategies for sending troops to back up Bush’s foreign policies.

Blair is rather partial to receiving gifts from foreigners. This includes a £3.5 million first instalment from Rupert Murdoch’s company Harper Row (officially it is royalties for his much awaited memoirs). This was used to pay off some of the mortgage of his London home (house prices are high in London). Murdoch, like Blair and Berlusconi, are great supporters of Bush.

I remember a time when most Labour Party MPs were former teachers, social workers, journalists, nurses, etc. The same was true of their partners. That was the sort of jobs that appealed to socialists. Now most Labour MPs are former lawyers, business executives, accountants or working in the field of public relations. Blair is married to one of the highest paid lawyers in the land. Tessa Jowell is married to a man who advises billionaires on their tax obligations. No doubt Gordon Brown has been giving him advice on the best tax havens to use. Apparently, he has been providing Rupert Murdoch with guidance on how to avoid paying tax in the UK. No doubt he also has a lucrative publishing deal with Harper Collins.

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The Guardian provided some more questions for Tessa Jowell yesterday:


Tessa Jowell faced a series of new questions about her knowledge of her husband David Mills' troubled business affairs last night, hours after she was cleared of wrongdoing under the ministerial code.

The culture secretary maintained that she knew nothing of a mysterious £350,000 payment received by Mr Mills - money which Italian investigators allege was a bribe - until many years after it was made.

She also said she was "not aware until recently" that this money had been used to pay off a mortgage on her home, and professed ignorance of a joint investment worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in a secretive offshore investment fund.

Ms Jowell's statement yesterday leaves several immediate questions and requires that a number of points made by her should be taken at face value.

Number One

She had no idea that her husband had repaid a £400,000 mortgage on their north London home less than 10 weeks after she had signed an application for the mortgage on September 20 2000.

Number Two

She still knew nothing of this repayment when she and her husband jointly applied for a loan from Mortgage Express in February 2002. The application form which she would have been obliged to sign would have asked for details of any outstanding loans against the property. Nick Gardner, a director of mortgage broker Chase De Vere Mortgage Management, said: "When you apply for a mortgage you are always asked what your existing commitments are - ie, whether you already have a mortgage and how much it is for. The lender has to find out what the extent of your financial commitments is."

Number Three

She remained ignorant of the repayment when she signed a third loan application when the couple switched their mortgage to the Alliance and Leicester in July 2004. "I was not aware until recently that the loan had been repaid shortly after it was taken out," she maintains.

Number Four

She knew nothing of the joint investment that her husband made in a secretive Guernsey-registered hedge fund, using the funds raised from the September 2000 home loan. Ms Jowell's statement says she knew nothing about the £350,000 payment until August 2004, almost four years after this money had been used to pay off the first of those mortgages on the couple's home, in November 2000. This means that she first became aware of the payment six months after British police had been alerted to its existence, in a tip-off from her husband's accountant in February 2004. The accountant is obliged, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, to alert police to any suspicious transactions.

Number Five

The statement also implies that she knew nothing of the payment until a month after Mr Mills had signed a statement for investigators in Milan in which he declared that the money had come from his former client Silvio Berlusconi as a "debt of gratitude" for giving favourable evidence during the billionaire politician's bribery and corruption trials, an admission which leaves a possible eight-year prison sentence hanging over his head.

Number Six

Ms Jowell further insists that her husband had received the payment in September 2000, while Italian prosecutors say they have evidence that it was received in October 1999. Mr Mills has also indicated privately that the money had been sitting in a hedge fund for a year when he used it to pay off the September 2000 mortgage.

By August 2004, the date when Ms Jowell says she first became aware of the payment, an Inland Revenue inquiry had concluded that it was not a gift, as her husband had argued it to be, but was income.

At this point he was liable to pay tax upon the sum, but Ms Jowell says she considers that the Revenue's decision means she was no longer obliged to declare the payment to her permanent secretary at the Department of Culture Media and Sport.

"I fully accept that my husband should have informed me, and if he had, I would of course have reported it to my permanent secretary," she says.

Mr Mills has since retracted his admission to the Milan prosecutors, which he says was "forced" out of him. He also now denies that the money was a payment from Mr Berlusconi, maintaining that it came from another Italian associate, Diego Attanasio.

Mr Attanasio has told prosecutors, in a statement seen by the Guardian, that he could not have made the payment as he was in jail at the time.

David Mills - three key queries

David Mills, a lawyer and tax specialist has also faced a series of awkward questions about the source of the £350,000 and the reason for its payment. He has not explained three key points:

· why Diego Attanasio, a shipping magnate and convicted criminal, would have paid him the money;

· why Mr Attanasio, once a close and trusted associate, then denied to Italian prosecutors that he was the source of the money in two witness statements, seen by the Guardian

· why inspectors from the Inland Revenue concluded that the money was earned income, rather than a gift

Mr Mills has given answers to a number of intriguing questions, however. He has explained that he signed a incriminating statement - in which he said the money was paid to him by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister - because he was exhausted by the lengthy interview conducted by Milan prosecutors.

He has also given an explanation for the letter which he wrote to his accountant, in which he said that the money had come from "the B people" and was connected to evidence which he had given in court which had "kept Mr B out of a great deal of trouble". This letter, he says, was a "completely insane" ploy he had used to ask his accountant for advice for a client whom he did not wish to name at the time.

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  • 1 month later...

Silvio Berlusconi’s defeat will not help David Mills and his legal problems. Maybe state television will now start to investigate Berlusconi’s corrupt activities.

In a recent statement Mills claimed he has documents that prove it was Diego Attanasio and not Silvio Berlusconi who gave him $2,050.000 in 1997. This may be so but I am not sure how this helps Mills. Why would Attanasio give Mills this money? What services did he provide? It also does not help his case that Attanasio is currently in prison for corruption.

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