Jowell's estranged husband appeals against bribery verdict

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The Independent Online

Days after Italy's highest court stripped him of legal immunity, Silvio Berlusconi's allegedly corrupt business dealings were again under the spotlight yesterday as David Mills, the estranged husband of British Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, appealed against his conviction for taking a bribe.

Mills, sentenced to four-and-a-half years' jail in February for taking $600,000 (£378,000) to lie under oath about overseas slush funds for the mogul's TV empire, reminded Italy that if he was guilty then so too was the Prime Minister. In the original indictment, Mr Berlusconi was accused of being the giver of the bribe – but after the passing last year of a law granting him immunity, all reference to him was removed from the case. This put Mills in the strange position of allegedly taking a bribe from an unknown source.

Now that the law has been struck down as unconstitutional, however, Mr Berlusconi could find himself in the dock at a re-trial, a fact Mills alluded to yesterday on Italian television.

"It would be absurd and illogical if one [of us] were found guilty and the other were cleared," he said, as his appeal against the conviction opened in Milan. "We're both guilty or innocent. That's the nature of corruption cases."

Meanwhile in Rome Mr Berlusconi continued to rage against the judges who had exposed him once again to prosecution. "I am absolutely the person who has been the most persecuted by the judiciary of all times, in all history, anywhere in the world," he told journalists after a cabinet meeting. And at a press conference, insisting yet again that he would not resign, he boasted, "I am the best Prime Minister in 150 years of Italian history."

At the opening of Mills's appeal, state prosecutor Laura Bertolè Viale called for the conviction to be upheld, adding "He doesn't deserve even a reduction in the sentence". She said Mills's corruption had been demonstrated by his "lies and evasiveness" as well as a confession, which he subsequently retracted.

Mills claims that both he and Mr Berlusconi are innocent. His lawyer Federico Cecconi said his client's conviction was the result of the court weighing "only partial elements", and asked permission to call Mr Berlusconi as a witness.

Now Mr Berlusconi has lost his immunity, a retrial of both men is possible, but could be killed by the statute of limitations long before reaching a verdict.

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