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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 13:25 GMT
Berlusconi, Mills get court date
David Mills and Tessa Jowell
David Mills has separated from UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
Court hearings on whether to indict Italy's prime minister and the husband of the UK's culture secretary on corruption charges begin on 5 June.

Italian prosecutors claim Silvio Berlusconi paid David Mills, husband of Tessa Jowell, $600,000 (344,000) for helpful testimony in two court cases.

Judge Fabio Paparella in Milan will decide whether they should face trial.

International lawyer Mr Mills, who has announced his split from Ms Jowell, and Mr Berlusconi deny any wrongdoing.

Investigating magistrates last week asked the judge to indict the men. Hearings on the indictment call are themselves likely to last weeks.

The prosecutors were reported to have rejected moves by Mr Berlusconi's lawyers that would have delayed demands for a trial until after the 9 April general election.

Mr Berlusconi accused them of waging a politically-motivated battle, and said they wanted to interfere with the election campaign.

Minister cleared

A lawyer for Mr Berlusconi in the 1990s, Mr Mills is alleged to have received the money in 1997 as payment for not revealing details of the prime minister's media empire, Mediaset.

Mr Mills claims the payment came from another client.

Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi is fighting general elections in April
In a separate case, Mr Berlusconi, Mr Mills and 12 others are accused of tax fraud and embezzlement involving Mediaset. All the defendants deny those charges.

The controversy has prompted Mr Mills and Ms Jowell to separate.

Ms Jowell was drawn into the affair after it emerged she had co-signed a 408,000 loan taken out against the value of their house, paid off just weeks later apparently using the Italian money.

Following an investigation by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, Prime Minister Tony Blair ruled Ms Jowell had not breached ministers' code of conduct because she did not know about the gift.

The ministerial code says gifts to ministers or their families should be notified to the permanent secretary, the senior civil servant in their department.


SEE ALSO:
Prosecutors ask for Mills trial
10 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Tessa Jowell splits from husband
04 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
Blair clears Jowell of wrongdoing
02 Mar 06 |  UK Politics



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