Court warns David Mills over Silvio Berlusconi evidence


English lawyer David Mills was today warned that he may commit an offence under the Italian legal system if he does not give full answers to a court investigating corruption claims against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr Mills was giving evidence by videolink from Westminster Magistrates' Court in London to the hearing in Milan and hesitated at answering questions raised on one specific point.

He said: "I'm reluctant to repeat that evidence in case it's suggested that in making a mistake, I'm telling a deliberate untruth."

The president of the court in Milan said Mr Mills's declarations today would not be used in relation to facts on which he had been accused then found not guilty.

He had the obligation to tell the truth and not to be reticent - not answering fully was a crime according to Italian and English law.

Mr Mills's lawyer James Lewis QC said: "If he gives the same evidence as before, when they accused him of perjury, can he again be accused of perjury? Because notwithstanding that Mr Mills says it's true, the Italian courts said it wasn't true and he was prosecuted for perjury."

He added: "He could be held under English law to have protection against self incrimination."

District Judge Howard Riddle, the chief magistrate of England and Wales, asked the Italian court: "If Mr Mills gives essentially the same evidence as he gave before, is there a real possibility that he will be prosecuted for perjury?"

But the answer came back: "It is not the faculty of the court to make assurance about total protection."

Mr Mills, who acted as Mr Berlusconi's tax lawyer, was charged along with Mr Berlusconi with corruption in Milan and was convicted in his absence in February 2009.

But he was acquitted by the Italian Supreme Court under Italy's statute of limitations a year later.

Mr Berlusconi is facing a trial, previously suspended under a temporary immunity law, on bribery allegations involving Mr Mills.

He denies wrongdoing and has complained that the charges are politically motivated.

Mr Mills and his wife Tessa Jowell, a former Labour Cabinet minister, separated in 2006 when she admitted being unaware he had paid off part of their mortgage with £350,000 at the centre of an Italian bribery case against Mr Berlusconi.

Earlier today Mr Mills did answer questions from the Italian prosecutor.

During these he said he was asked to set up a trust structure for the children from Mr Berlusconi's first marriage, but the structure was never effected, so far as he knew.