David Mills may face Silvio Berlusconi case quiz


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The Independent Online

English lawyer David Mills today said he would travel to Italy to give evidence in a corruption case against former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - but only if he knows what evidence is expected of him.

Mills - who acted as Berlusconi's tax lawyer - said he wanted to know what the Italian prosecutor would ask him.

Speaking via a video link in London to Berlusconi's hearing in Milan, Mills said: "There are certain circumstances which I would be willing to go to Italy but I am not sure what evidence I would be expected to give.

"I would ask my counsel to clarify what those circumstances might be."

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.

Mills was charged along with 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.

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

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

Today, Mills's barrister, James Lewis QC, applied for the hearing to be adjourned until the Italian prosecutor explains what evidence his client would be asked to give.

He said: "In our respectful submission this shouldn't be an inquisition.

"It is not at an investigation stage of the proceedings but it is a trial.

"Mr Mills is to be treated as a witness and he must know what evidence the public prosecutor believes he will give to your court."

Mr Lewis requested an adjournment and described the Italian prosecution as intransigent in its unwillingness to explain what questions his client will face.

Mr Lewis's application was supported by James Hines, Berlusconi's UK barrister.

Mr Hines told the trial: "The defendant shouldn't be ambushed and the prosecution should set out its case from the outset."

But Howard Riddle, the chief magistrate of England and Wales, refused the application to adjourn.

The Italians then began discussing why Mills should answer the prosecution's questions - none have actually been put to him yet.

The video link feed broke down and visuals were lost from Milan though sound continued to be relayed.

The discussions are being translated by a single interpreter.

At one point she was overcome when it appeared an argument had broken out, with a confused clash of voices drowning each other out.

"Can we have a translation?" joked Mr Hines.

Berlusconi is present in court.