Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Whitewash or laundry?

The saga of Tessa Jowell's finances continues to amaze, amuse or perturb depending on one's point of view. It is beginning to look as though David Mills is deeply implicated in bribery/perverting justice charges in Italy, indeed it's rumoured he's preparing to cut a deal with the magistrates out there.

The weight of the charge is that Mills remortgaged the family house in Kentish Town, and paid the whole mortgage off very promptly indeed. This is a classic method of laundering dodgy money - so classic that it is specifically warned against in the solicitors' code of professional conduct. Jowell's defence so far has been that she knew nothing of the process. Poor little woman, can't expect her to keep up with the difficult financial things. Leave that to her husband. Except that, since Barclays Bank v O'Brian it has been practice for a bank to insist that the partner, usually wife, of the mortgagor has received independent legal advice over the potential effects of the mortgage.

Either Jowell ignored this - which is unlikely - or she took the advice. But to claim that she was never informed opens up Mills' solicitors (and the bank's) to a charge of professional misconduct. The defence is also reminiscent of the Blairs's over the flats in Bristol - that one partner in a marriage took an enormously important financial decision that affected the finances of both without even informing the other. This doesn't pass the smell test. From looking like a storm in a teacup, this affair is starting to give off a whiff of corruption.

Incidentally, since buying their house for cash in 1979, it has been mortgaged and remortgaged 5 times. On one occasion their mortgage was repaid within a month. Something of a laundromat methinks.

UPDATE: Incidentally the Devil's Kitchen has a post on this, as pithily expressed as might be expected

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