‘Devil’s Advocate’ Giovanni di Stefano appears in court over fraud allegations
THE former Dundee FC director Giovanni di Stefano has appeared in court charged with falsely claiming to be a qualified Italian lawyer.
Di Stefano, 57, dubbed the “Devil’s Advocate” after representing a series of notorious figures including Moors murderer Ian Brady and Saddam Hussein, appeared at City of London Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
He stands accused of a series of charges, including four counts of fraud by false representation and four counts of fraud by abuse of position. All offences are alleged to have taken place between October 2007 and February 2012.
Di Stefano was recently embroiled in the Rangers controversy, when he indicated that he wanted to buy the club and exploit a loophole he believed would let them play in England.
He wrote to administrators Duff and Phelps to voice his interest in making a bid, which was to be bankrolled by a group of wealthy oil sheikhs.
The Italian had previously been on the board of Dundee FC when it went into administration in November 2003, but resigned two months later.
Prosecutors have alleged that he made “false representations to Subash and Kiran Thakrar, namely that he was a qualified Italian lawyer”.
He is also accused of keeping £476,000 belonging to the Thakrars, claiming it would be “held on trust and only released to annul the bankruptcy of Subash Thakrar”.
Di Stefano is alleged to have failed to pay fees due to “professional clients” Michael Wolkind QC and Richard Ferry-Swainson while acting as a legal adviser for David Brown.
It is also claimed that Di Stefano, also while acting as a legal adviser, “failed to insure that Tamara Zegarac was reimbursed the sum of £12,000 paid for her benefit by Cerner Ltd” and “failed to provide any adequate representation” to Grant Wilkinson.
He is further accused of defrauding Patricia Walsh-Smith by claiming that “if she bought a shareholding option in News of the World Online Ltd, her interest would be sold at a profit to Xing He Holdings Ltd”.
It is further alleged that Ms Walsh-Smith was the victim of a second fraud after Di Stefano said he would pay her rent for a period of three months.
He is also charged with two counts of using forged documents, namely “a record purporting to show a transfer of funds into a bank account in the name of Hamptons Ltd” and “a letter purporting to emanate from the Jordan Ahli Bank”.
Di Stefano’s lawyers indicated in court that he “vigorously” denies the allegations and will plead not guilty to the ten charges. Asking for the case to be committed to the Crown Court, prosecutor Patrick Moran said: “The total value of the offences alleged is well over £500,000. We submit that on that basis these offences are not suitable for summary trial.”
Di Stefano, of Canterbury, Kent, having denied the charges, was bailed to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 4 September. His bail conditions include surrendering his passport and abiding by a midnight to 6am curfew.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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