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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 July 2006, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Jowell husband facing fraud trial
David Mills and Tessa Jowell
David Mills denies the allegations made against him in Italy
The husband of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has been ordered by an Italian judge to stand trial for alleged fraud.

Lawyer David Mills is among 14 people, including former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, who will face charges of tax fraud and embezzlement.

The case centres on the purchase of US broadcasting rights by Mr Berlusconi's company Mediaset.

Mr Mills, who separated from Ms Jowell earlier this year, said he was "completely innocent".

'Tax evaded'

Mr Mills is alleged to have set up offshore firms that helped Mr Berlusconi's media company avoid tax liability on TV rights.

Judge Fabio Paparella ordered Mr Mills to stand trial on charges of embezzlement and tax fraud.

I feel that I'm innocent, I know I'm innocent
David Mills

Milan prosecutors Fabio De Pasquale and Alfredo Robledo have conducted a three-year investigation into Mediaset.

Prosecutors suspect two offshore firms controlled by a Berlusconi family holding, Fininvest, bought television and cinema rights from a US firm.

The companies, it is alleged, then sold the rights on at inflated prices to Mediaset, also controlled by Fininvest, to avoid Italian taxes and create a slush fund.

In a related case, Mr Berlusconi is accused of paying Mr Mills 325,000 for not revealing details of his media empire in two court cases.

Mr Berlusconi denies any wrongdoing.

Preliminary hearings began in October last year, and the trial is set to start in Italy on 21 November.

Mr Mills told the BBC: "I've been through such evidence as there is, that they've put forward and I'm advised by very eminent Italian counsel that in fact and the law I'm completely innocent.

"I mean, I feel that I'm innocent, I know I'm innocent, I know I've done nothing wrong and I feel completely serene about the outcome."

Mr Mills also said he does not plan to attend the trial in Italy.

"For strange reasons of Italian procedure there's no need for me to turn up to the trial at all.

"I might give evidence at some point if it becomes necessary, but quite honestly the trial is likely to come to an end, because of the limitation act in Italy, before we ever reach that stage.

"It's very unlikely that the defence case is going to be reached before the case peters out at the beginning of 2008."

All the defendants deny the allegations.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear an interview with David Mills



SEE ALSO
Q&A: Berlusconi fraud charges
07 Jul 06 |  Europe




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