David Mills: The brilliant, well-connected lawyer who was too impulsive for his own good

Brilliant and extroverted, master of four languages and the clarinet, the man sentenced to four and a half years in jail by a court in Milan yesterday is one of the best-connected lawyers in Britain, with a network of influential friends and relations, most of them on or around the summit of New Labour.

He met his now-estranged wife Tessa Jowell when both of them were councillors for the London Borough of Camden, a breeding ground for ambitious young politicians bent on remaking the Labour Party in the 1980s. Others to who he is close include his sister-in-law, the former director of public prosecutions Barbara Mills, Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and many more. So how did such a gifted, clever, well-connected man land in such a scrape?

As a fluent Italian speaker, Mr Mills might ruefully admit that the word that sums up the source of his difficulties is “spregiudicatezza”, recklessness – a word which is also often used to describe the career of his long-term client Silvio Berlusconi.

Mills had been a barrister for ten years when it dawned on him that he could make a great deal more money in a different sphere of the law, and he reinvented himself as a commercial lawyer.

In part because of his language skills, top Milan law firm Carnelutti asked him to set up a London office for them, and he agreed, running it in tandem with his own partnership, Mackenzie Mills. Some of his foreign clients merely needed his assistance in negotiating British law but others needed more creative involvement. Big Italian firms that came banging on his door included Fininvest, the financial firm behind Berlusconi’s media empire.

Mills became one of the architects of Berlusconi’s mysterious archipelago of offshore companies, and while he has never been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with those firms, there was always the risk of contamination by proximity. But being for many years the legal adviser of a figure as controversial as Berlusconi was almost bound to bring headaches.

All the while, Mills has given the impression of finding the whole adventure enormous fun. In the thick of the Milan trial, with his marriage dragged on to the rocks because of the terrible publicity, Mills told an interviewer from Legal Business magazine: “It’s like a thriller, all of this … [it’s] very exciting.”

The impression he leaves is of a man of vast talent who is too clever, and impulsive, by half.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border