There’s a fine line between big business and politicians but even finer when your wife is a cabinet minister in the British Government. A situation that David Mills, the lawyer accused taking a bribe from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi, and his wife, Tessa Jowell, Culture Minister, have apparently just discovered.
Mills has repeatedly denied using the alleged bribe to pay off the couple’s joint mortgage and Ms Jowell, whose alleged involvement is being investigated by Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, denies wrongdoing
Until this scandal broke in Italy, David Mills was largely unknown to the British public but a high profile player in European business circles, writing and challenging contracts for clients. Italy, where lawyers could name their fees, has been his main marketplace for the past 20 years or more.
Mills’ “Italian Connection” was born a quarter of a century ago, he met an English-speaking Italian named Marino Bastianini, who worked for one of Milan’s leading law firms, Carnelutti Studio Legale Associato. Mr Bastianini persuaded him to become involved in supplying legal advice to Italian firms wanting to expand into Britain.
David Mills’s connection with Carnelutti brought him a huge number of Italian clients, including one famous connection – Belusconi – that perhaps he now has cause to regret.
The connection also inspired Mr Mills to learn Italian, which he did impressively quickly. He has a gift for languages, traceable to his boyhood, when his father, Kenneth, was a big league spy. At the end of the war, Kenneth Mills was running MI5’s operations from Gibraltar. Later, he was transferred to Jamaica and – according to a family legend – personally foiled an attempted revolution in Cuba. Its leader, Fidel Castro, survived to try again.
Kenneth Mills had a house in Spain, and his son David, born in 1944, was speaking Spanish almost as soon as he learnt English. He added French and the classics, Greek and Latin, to his repertoire before going up to University College, Oxford, in the early 1960s, to read politics and economics.
Soon after graduating he became a Labour councilor in Camden, London. He met Tessa Jowell while she was contesting a by-election in 1978 and they married a year later.
He founded the law firm of Mackenzie Mills firm that merged with Withers in 1995. But after a dispute over money with the other partners he left and in 20 he joined the Mayfair private client law firm Gordon Dadds as an equity partner. His stay was short and in 2003 he set up law firm Mills Saint James.
Away from the board rooms Mills, who is 61, takes on a different persona. He is an expert cook, a clarinetist, a golfer, a walker and a tennis player.
Asked whether he regretted the recent embarrassment caused to his wife he is quoted as replying: “Of course I am utterly mortified.”
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