Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Brown 'has confidence' in Jowell

Gordon Brown and Tessa Jowell
Ms Jowell is Olympics minister in Gordon Brown's government

Gordon Brown has said he supports Tessa Jowell, after her estranged husband was convicted of accepting a bribe from Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi.

Speaking at a press conference with Mr Berlusconi, Mr Brown said he had confidence in his Olympics minister.

Her estranged husband David Mills is said to have used the money to pay off the mortgage on their shared home.

Ms Jowell was cleared of any wrongdoing by a Parliamentary inquiry. The Italian PM denies making any payments to Mills.

Asked whether she had a future in his government, Mr Brown said: "I can't comment on individual cases in a judicial system in another country."

'Highly political'

But he added: "Tessa Jowell is the minister for the Olympics in our government and she's doing a very good job and I have confidence in her ability to continue doing that job."

Tax lawyer Mr Mills was found guilty of accepting a bribe of about £400,000 from Mr Berlusconi, by an Italian court on Tuesday.

He was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail but is expected to appeal, saying in a statement he was innocent but it was a "highly political" case.

The court heard Mills, who was one of Mr Berlusconi's consultants on offshore tax havens, had accepted the money in return for giving false testimony in two corruption trials involving the Italian prime minister.

The prosecution alleged Mr Berlusconi paid him for not revealing details of offshore companies during two previous trials in 1997 and 1998, in which the lawyer gave evidence as an expert witness.

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

Mr Berlusconi has denied making any such payment to Mr Mills. His administration controversially passed an immunity from prosecution law last year for himself and a handful of other senior ministers.

The bill was passed by both houses of parliament, with supporters arguing that the amendment was needed to allow the top state officials to focus on doing their jobs without legal distraction.

When he leaves office, Mr Berlusconi may become subject to the charges again, as long as they have not expired under Italy's statute of limitations.

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