Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jowell Failed to Come Clean on Husband's Iran Links for over a Year

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Jowell Failed to Come Clean on Husband's Iran Links for over a Year

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS

TESSA JOWELL'S claim that she did not break the ministerial code of conduct was dealt a new blow today with the disclosure that she failed to declare her husband's controversial business links in Iran for more than a year.

As Conservative leader David Cameron called on Tony Blair to tighten up the code, the Evening Standard can reveal Ms Jowell carried out her duties as Culture Secretary for 14 months without registering David Mills's involvement in Iranian-owned businesses.

One of the companies in which he was involved has a headquarters in Dubai, where he tried to persuade the authorities to let him practise as a lawyer.

He reinforced his case by writing a letter pointing out he was married to a British minister and had the support of Mr Blair.

But Ms Jowell's failure to fully disclose his business activities means the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues may have had no idea what Mr Mills was doing.

The ministerial code of conduct states a minister must provide a permanent secretary with a written list of not only their own business interests, but those of their spouse or partner, where the possibility of a conflict of interest could arise.

Given the sensitivity of Britain's relations with Iran, which is suspected of trying to develop a nuclear weapon and supporting the insurgency in Iraq, Ms Jowell's omission appears to directly contravene the code.

When Mr Blair reissued the code in July last year, he said: "I will expect all ministers to work within the letter and spirit of the code."

Mr Mills began working with two Iranian lawyers, who were trying to do deals in Britain and Europe, at the beginning of 2002. One, Shahram Shirkhani, used Mr Mills's company Mayfair Corporate Services (MCS) to set up a firm dealing in metals in London. On 4 January 2002, MCS was appointed secretary of the firm General Steel Manufacturing Limited, and Mr Mills was made a director the following August.

At about the same time MCS helped set up another firm, BDIC. Mr Shirkhani and Mr Mills joined the board along with Mohammed Zolanvari, who was Mr Shirkhani's associate and also an Iranian lawyer. …

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