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Di Stefano guilty of faking legal qualification

Di Stefano, who became known as the Devil's Advocate, was found guilty today. Picture: PA

Di Stefano, who became known as the Devil's Advocate, was found guilty today. Picture: PA

A self-styled Italian lawyer who became known as the Devil’s Advocate was found guilty today of tricking people into thinking he was a bona fide legal professional.

• The charges include deception, fraud and money laundering

• Di Stefano told of his links to Robert Mugabe and Osama bin Laden

• He described Saddam Hussein as a “nice guy”

Giovanni di Stefano, who earned his nickname for taking on “unwinnable” cases, was convicted on 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011.

The 57-year-old conned clients out of millions of pounds by setting himself up as a lawyer when he had no legal qualifications and was not registered to work as a lawyer in Italy or the UK.

He used the Italian word “avvocato” on business cards, letterheads and identification documents to give clients - and the judiciary - the impression he was an advocate.

Di Stefano did not react as the 25 guilty verdicts were delivered at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

The jury of eight women and four men took four hours and 10 minutes to reach its decisions.

During the trial di Stefano told of his links to Robert Mugabe, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and his “friendship” with the daughter of Slobodan Milosevic.

The court was shown a BBC documentary from 2004 in which he described Saddam as a “nice guy” and boasted of being asked to defend killers such as Jeremy Bamber, Harold Shipman, Kenneth Noye and Linda Calvey.

He was born in the small town of Petrella Tifernina in central Italy, but moved to the UK as a boy and went to school in Wollaston, Northamptonshire.

Di Stefano, of North Stream, Marshside, Canterbury, was found guilty of nine counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, eight counts of fraud, three counts of acquiring criminal property, two counts of using a false instrument, one count of attempting to obtain a money transfer by deception, one count of obtaining property by deception and one count of using criminal property.

During the trial prosecutor David Aaronberg QC told the jury that di Stefano developed “something of a reputation” among convicted criminals, lawyers, the media and the wider community.

“It was this that has gained him the fame, or the notoriety, that he enjoys,” he said.

“He was a man who was willing to provide legal services to clients whose cases others considered unwinnable or too difficult to defend.

“He was willing to argue for unpopular causes.”

Judge Alistair McCreath, the Recorder of Westminster, remanded di Stefano in custody for sentencing at 10.30am tomorrow.

 

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