Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 18:13 UK

Jowell's husband lied, say judges

David Mills
Judges say Mills committed perjury in two separate trials in the 1990s

A British tax lawyer jailed for taking a £400,000 bribe from Silvio Berlusconi lied twice in court, judges have said.

David Mills, the estranged husband of UK Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, committed perjury in two separate trials, the Italian judges said.

Explaining why Mills was found guilty of corruption, they said he lied either to get the Italian prime minister off charges or to help him keep profits.

Mills, sentenced in February to four-and-a-half years, has lodged an appeal.

'Very tricky corners'

Mr Berlusconi was originally on trial with Mills, but passed a new immunity law which suspended the charges while he is in office.

He has always denied any involvement and said he would make a statement to Parliament on the judges' comments.

Mr Berlusconi's supporters claim the charges against him are politically motivated.

Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi could face charges again when he leaves office

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy says calls by some smaller political parties for the prime minister to resign are unlikely to have much impact.

He said: "With substantial parliamentary backing and with his personal popularity ratings among the highest for any recent Italian leader, such calls to end Mr Berlusconi's hold on power are not likely to receive widespread support."

At Mills' trial in Milan in February, the court heard he had accepted money in return for giving false testimony in two corruption trials involving Mr Berlusconi.

Prosecutors say Mills then used the cash to help pay off a joint mortgage he held with his wife.

An investigation by UK parliamentary officials later cleared Ms Jowell of any wrongdoing.

'Tax havens'

Mills was one of Mr Berlusconi's consultants on offshore tax havens.

The prosecution alleged the prime minister paid him for not revealing details of offshore companies during two trials in 1997 and 1998.

Mills was called to give evidence in those trials as an expert witness.

In 2004, the lawyer sent a letter to a British accountant in which he said the £400,000 payment came from "Mr B".

He wrote that he had not lied, but had "turned some very tricky corners, to put it mildly".

Mills initially admitted receiving money from Mr Berlusconi but later said it came from someone else.

The lawyer, who is appealing against his conviction, said after the trial in February he was "very disappointed".

Speaking at the time, he said: "I am innocent, but this is a highly political case... I am hopeful that the verdict and sentence will be set aside on appeal."

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