Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hydrofoils

An extract from an article at The Independent, 9 Nov 1997

Independent, The (London): The Minister's Mr Moneybags

Mr Berlusconi is not the only one of Mr Mills's Italian clients under investigation.

Another embarrassment arises in Rome where there is an investigation into a series of alleged frauds perpetrated in the Eighties on SACE, the Italian equivalent of the Exports Credits Guarantee Department.

The story centres on a tourism project which was to be set up on St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean and for which three hydrofoils were ordered from a Sicilian shipyard, then owned by a family named Rodriguez.

The company ordering the hydrofoils was called Nautical Trading and the ships were financed by a $25m loan from Morgan Grenfell in the City, guaranteed by SACE and the St Kitts government.

Mr Mills became a director of Nautical.

In the end the project failed, and the hydrofoils, which had been delivered to the Caribbean, were left rotting for some time before being returned to the Mediterranean and the Rodriguez family.

They have subsequently been impounded.

Investigators in Italy, London and St Kitts are trying to discover what has happened to the money, much of which seems to have disappeared via an Isle of Man company called Bluematt - not a Mills company.

It is allegedly owned by the man behind the whole deal, an Englishman who has changed his name and has a fraud conviction.

Mr Mills remained a director of Nautical throughout the collapse at the request of the Rodriguez family, as a "caretaker" he says, to help sort things out.


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