How did an erudite 60-year-old London lawyer married to a member of the British Cabinet get embroiled in the Italian Prime Minister’s tax trial? The prosecution alleges that Silvio Berlusconi used a complex network of offshore companies to boost artificially the price of film rights to reduce the business’s tax liabilities.
By the time David Mills set up Century One and Universal One, the two companies at the centre of the claimed £40 million tax fraud, he had been acting for Signor Berlusconi’s companies for ten years.
Documents filed at Companies House in Britain show that in March 1980 Mr Mills set up Reteitalia, a Fininvest company (the Italian Prime Minister’s holding company) owned by Signor Berlusconi. Between August 1981 and September 1983 Signor Berlusconi was one of the directors. The principal activity of the company was the purchase and sale of film rights.
Over the next 15 years Mr Mills set up a number of other companies for Fininvest, according to filings at Companies House. Some of these bought film rights from third parties, which they then sold to other companies owned by Signor Berlusconi.
Initially the London office of the leading Italian law firm, Carnelutti, served as the company secretary to many of these companies. Mr Mills signed the directors’ report for a number of years by order of the board. Later CMM, a law firm of which Mr Mills was a director, was company secretary to many of these companies.
At a hearing in London in 2003 centring on a charge of corruption levelled against Signor Berlusconi, Mr Mills, who is fluent in Italian, was asked when his relationship with Fininvest began. According to reports on Italian state television and in the Italian press at the time, he replied “in 1989 or 1990”.