• Senior judge in fraudster appeal case demands to know qualifications of Giovanni di Stefano, former Dundee FC director
• di Stefano claims to be an Italian advocate with rights of audience in court
• He has won several cases and is pursuing appeals for high-profile clients
Key quote: "If we win, we will have beaten the top legal brains in the country. They should go back to school, not me." Giovanni di Stefano.
Story in full: A SENIOR appeal judge demanded yesterday to be told the legal qualifications of the controversial Italian lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, the former director of Dundee FC who has represented some of Britain’s most notorious criminals.
Lord Justice Rose, the vice-president of the Court of Appeal, criminal division, raised the issue after he and two other judges rejected an appeal by the timeshare fraudster, John "Goldfinger" Palmer, to halve the 2 million compensation he had been ordered to pay his victims.
The judge asked Palmer’s counsel, Jerome Lynch, QC: "We understand your instructing solicitors are Paul Martin & Co. A representative of that firm appears to be in court today. Who is that gentleman?"
Mr Lynch replied: "Mr di Stefano. I don’t believe he is a representative of Paul Martin."
The judge said: "This raises in stark form a matter of interest to this court."
He said the grounds of appeal were signed by leading counsel - not Mr Lynch - two junior counsel and, "somewhat unusually", by Mr Martin and Mr di Stefano, of Studio Legale Internazionale. Two advice notes sent to the court regarding the appeal were also signed by Mr di Stefano.
"Usually, documents of this kind emanate either from a member of the Bar of England and Wales or a solicitor with higher rights of audience," the judge said. "Mr di Stefano doesn’t appear to be in either of those categories. How does it come about that he submits advice to this court?"
After a heated exchange, in which the judge asked him several times to take instructions from Mr di Stefano, Mr Lynch said he would "ask" him.
Later, Mr Lynch told the court that Mr di Stefano, an advocate from Italy, had power of attorney from Palmer to instruct lawyers in this country.
Mr di Stefano had told him that, in the case of another of his clients, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, it was confirmed by the court that a European directive entitled any European lawyer to the same courtesies and rights of audience as English lawyers.
Lord Justice Rose asked when and where Mr di Stefano qualified as an advocate in Italy. Mr Lynch said he was unable to answer because he did not know. The judge then said: "He has been conducting this appeal. That’s the position, isn’t it? We shall consider what, if anything, needs to be done."
After the hearing, Mr di Stefano, who earlier this month announced his resignation from the board of Dundee FC, said that if the judges had asked him, he could have provided evidence of his qualifications.
He showed an identity card showing his occupation as advocate, and membership cards of the American Bar Association and International Bar Association. "If the judges want to make inquiries, let them," he said.
After winning several major cases, Mr di Stefano is pursuing appeals for convicted killers Kenneth Noye, Jeremy Bamber and Linda Calvey. "If we win, we will have beaten the top legal brains in the country. They should go back to school, not me," he said.