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FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: It appears a few tête-à-têtes with Diego Della Valle on Capri has landed Peter Mandelson, the former European Union trade commissioner and now the U.K. government’s Business Secretary, in hot water with the British press. London tabloid The Mail on Sunday ran a story over the weekend that detailed Mandelson’s visits to Capri with Della Valle, chairman and chief executive officer of Tod’s, over the past two years. The story suggested Mandelson’s visits with Della Valle came after Mandelson had lobbied for duties on leather shoe imports from China and Vietnam in March 2006, in order to protect European leather shoe producers. A spokeswoman for Tod’s declined comment. However, industry sources said there isn’t a business connection between Mandelson and Della Valle.

“Peter Mandelson makes a clear distinction between his public role and how he spends his private time. No conflict of interest has arisen between the two,” said a spokesman for the U.K.’s Department for Business. “Naturally, as a minister, he will follow the ministerial code and avoid any conflict of interest.” Since Mandelson — who has resigned from British government twice during his career after alleged involvement in political scandals — was drafted back into the government earlier this month, he’s been subjected to much scrutiny by the press. It’s also been reported that during Mandelson’s time as EU trade commissioner, Nat Rothschild lent him a private jet and he spent time on Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s yacht. “[Mandelson] is not going to offer a commentary on how he has spent his private time during the last four years when he was away from British politics,” the spokesman added. — Nina Jones


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