Bogus 'lawyer' guilty of fraud
Published 27/03/2013 | 15:31
A self-styled Italian lawyer who became known as the Devil's Advocate has been found guilty of tricking people into thinking he was a bona fide legal professional.
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.
Judge Alistair McCreath, the Recorder of Westminster, remanded di Stefano in custody for sentencing at 10.30am on Thursday.