Thursday, March 02, 2006

Been through the Mills?

Well, aren't David Mills's explanations for that £350,000 getting creative? First up, he said the letter in which he fessed up to it was "purely hypothetical". Fine. So there was no money. Now, he says that the £350,000 came from his mate, the Neapolitan shipowner. (Shipping in Naples. Not likely to be any trace of corruption sir.) So the money that doesn't exist (being purely hypothetical) was legit, so that's all right.

Meanwhile, yer man the shipowner denies that he paid the money over. He's got every reason to deny it, after all, because he was in jail at the time on a fraud rap. Let's get this straight - Jowell and Mills' defence is that they got the money from a Naples shipping magnate who was in jail at the time. When your defence sounds like that you're in trouble.

Not just that, but (unless I've missed something) Mills hasn't retracted the statement that there was no money. The car was never taken out of the driveway, he wasn't driving, and anyway he hadn't had a drink! Perhaps the statement was itself "purely hypothetical".

Then there's the mortgage, of course. The one that got paid off within the month. Now, what nobody seems to have picked up is that it's not the only mortgage the Millses have paid off with astonishing speed. According to yesterday's Evening Standard, they did the trick once before in 2000, and again in 2002, having bought both properties in cash in the first place. Now, it's very hard to imagine why anybody would use this weird procedure. It's hardly cost-free or simple. And why would anybody who bought a house in 1987 for cash on the nail mortgage it in 1991, when its value would have sunk substantially and the interest rate would have soared?

Now, I'd link to the original story. But I can't because the Evening Standard is too incompetent to update its website. Has anyone seen lately? What an embarrassment that is. It looks for all the world like one of those dire spam sites that come up if you google for anything containing the word "hotel".

In further snark, was anyone else amused by Tessa Jowell being named as the Government's "champion" for equal pay on the same day that she told BBC Radio that she couldn't possibly have done anything wrong because her husband paid the mortgage and therefore she didn't worry about how the debt she guaranteed would be paid off? I think in future this blog will refer to her as Mrs. David Mills.

Update: Well, thank God for that. According to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary, everything is all right. Interesting paragraph:
That refers to the apparent nub of the matter - that the disputed £350,000 that Mr Mills received in September 2000 was believed by Mr Mills to be a gift at the time - which would have required registering under the ministerial code. But he did not, apparently, tell his wife about it.

By the time he did, in August 2004 according to Ms Jowell, he had reclassified it as earnings, paid tax on it, and therefore it no longer fell liable to declaration under the code.
So - Mrs. David Mills signed the mortgage in August, 2000, which was then paid off in September, 2000 with the money, but didn't hear about it until August, 2004, by which time Mr. David Mills had decided that - fancy that! - it was actually legitimate income. Of course, presumably only she knows when she knew it, so Gus O'Donnell has to take her word for it.

It's eerily Aitkenesque. The Cabinet Secretary of the day (Butler?) was asked to investigate by John Major. He did this by asking Riyadh Jonny nicely if he'd lied to Parliament and believing his answer on the grounds that he was a gent. Aitken denied it (a lie), and got his free pass from the PM. History records the rest.

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