David Mills Says He Fabricated His Silvio Berlusconi Payoff Story

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The British lawyer testified that he lied about Italy's former prime minister paying him $600,000 in hush money.

ROME – The British lawyer who became the centerpiece of one of the main criminal cases against Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi for claiming that Berlusconi paid him $600,000 to lie on his behalf in court said Thursday that he fabricated the charges in order to avoid paying taxes on the money.

The case surrounding Berlusconi and attorney David Mills was one of the most puzzling in Italy because a court found Mills guilty of accepting a bribe from Berlusconi, while evidence was ruled inconclusive regarding whether or not Berlusconi was guilty of paying the bribe to Mills.

Now, during Berlusconi’s corruption trial, Mills said that he made up his part of the story in order to throw British tax authorities off the trail on the payment.

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“I want to stress the complete innocence of Mr. Berlusconi, who has absolutely nothing to do with this $600,000,” Italian newspapers quoted Mills as saying via satellite hookup in the court, where Berlusconi looked on.

For his part, Berlusconi said he was “relieved” that Mills changed his story. All along, Berlusconi denied any wrongdoing in the case.

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Prosecutors alleged Berlusconi paid Mills $600,000 to give false testimony in a 1990s trial alleging financial wrongdoing in a deal related to the acquisition of U.S. film rights.

Mills’ admission does apparent damage to the case against Berlusconi. But some critics charge Berlusconi may have influenced Mills in order to convince him to lie again. The next hearing in the trial is set for Jan. 16.

Aside from the corruption case, Berlusconi is facing charges in two other trials in Milan.