There’s news today that David Mills, tax lawyer and estranged husband of Tessa Jowell MP, has been found guilty of accepting a bribe, allegedly paid by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Mills, who was sentenced to 4 1/2 years’ imprisonment, was not in court and is expected to appeal against the judgement.
If this rings a bell, it may be because the bribe surfaced in 2006 as part of the “Jowellgate” scandal. If you recall, a few weeks after Mr Mills received these funds, he and his then wife happened to pay off a £408,000 mortgage. Mr Mills has variously confirmed and denied that the money in question came from Mr Berlusconi.
During the investigation into whether Ms Jowell had broken the rules of the Ministerial Code of Conduct at the time, she said that her husband had received a sum of money “which he thought he had reasonable grounds to believe was a gift”. A phrase so circuitous that it alone ought to give one reasonable grounds to believe that some wool is being spun.
Apparently Mr Mills did not mention the gift to his wife (who was a co-signatory on the mortgage), and she therefore did not know to declare it under the Code of Conduct. Both the Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell, and the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, concluded that Ms Jowell had done nothing wrong.
Ms Jowell is currently the government’s Paymaster General and is Minister for the 2012 Olympics, a project whose budget is about £9.3bn.