Saddam Hussein's Italian lawyer was a fraud, British court rules

Giovanni di Stefano was convicted of 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2004 and 2012.

Afp March 28, 2013
A November 5, 2006 file photo of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein shouting at the court as a bailiff attempts to silence him during the delivery of his verdict in his trial. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON: An Italian "lawyer" whose notorious clients included late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was found guilty by a British court on Wednesday of tricking people into believing he was a genuine legal professional.

Giovanni di Stefano, 57, was convicted at London's Southwark Crown Court of 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2004 and 2012.

The court heard that Di Stefano, who was dubbed "the devil's advocate" by the British press for his track history of taking on notorious clients, did not actually have any legal qualifications.

Prosecutors said the fraudster, who is also a former director of Scottish Premier League football club Dundee, conned clients out of millions of pounds.

As well as working with the legal teams of Saddam Hussein and late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, the court heard that Di Stefano had connections with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and even had contact with Osama bin Laden.

He made a name for himself by taking on apparently "unwinnable" cases and boasted of being asked to defend infamous British killers such as Jeremy Bamber and Harold Shipman.

"For many years, Giovanni di Stefano described himself to potential clients as a lawyer and usually as an Italian 'avvocato'. He was nothing of the sort," said Hilary Ryan of England's Crown Prosecution Service.

"When the law caught up with him, he falsely claimed to have obtained various formal, legal qualifications," she added.

"He then went on to claim that having taught himself the law, he was entitled to describe himself as a lawyer.

"This was fraud by anyone's standards and a charade that he kept up for over eight years in order to line his own pockets."

Di Stefano's legal ambitions began, unusually, with a spell behind bars.

Born in the town of Petrella Tifernina in central Italy, he moved to Britain when he was a boy and was jailed in the late 1970s for going on a spending spree with a credit card stolen from his father.

He told his current trial that he resolved to take up law because he held his "incompetent" barrister responsible for the fact that he received a longer sentence than his co-defendant.

Di Stefano attended legal lectures while working as a research technician in the physiology department of the University of Cambridge and, despite a conspiracy conviction in 1985, pursued his ambition to practise law.

He told jurors that he eventually considered himself "learned" in the law and capable of providing legal services, and began advising clients.

He was arrested in February 2011 in Palma, the capital of the Spanish island of Majorca, on a European arrest warrant.

Di Stefano is due to be sentenced on Thursday.


Stranger | 9 years ago | Reply

Finally did the US and its allies find the so called WMD- weapons of Mass Destruction ? There is no mention of that now anywhere .

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