Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back to Jail for Con-Man "Lawyer" who acted for War Criminals and boasted he'd funded Cons

GIOVANNI di Stefano has been sentenced to fourteen years in jail for a series of frauds on “desperate and vulnerable victims”  whom  he tricked into thinking he was a bona fide lawyer.

 Di Stefano was convicted on 25 charges, including deception, fraud and money laundering
 He pleaded guilty to another two counts of fraud and further three counts ordered to lie on file

Di Stefano, 57,became known as the Devil’s Advocate for taking on “unwinnable” cases, though the Law Society said he was not qualified, nor entitled to act as a lawyer at all.

Judge Alistair McCreath, the Recorder of Westminster, noted there were many offences over significant periods of time. The fact that the victims – which included a disabled man seeking damages for the loss of an arm – were all “desperate and vulnerable” and faced losses which were not just financial but also included the “raising and dashing of false hope” were aggravating factors, the judge said.

The judge said the case was not just about money. "It is also about something different and great – it is about the real distress you caused to so many people. You had no regard for them nor for their anguish,” he said. “Your only concern was to line your own pockets.”
Among the offences to which Di Stefano pleaded guilty was stealing £150,000 compensation that should have gone to a man who had lost an arm in a car crash. The money was due as part of an insurance policy but di Stefano had it paid in to his business account and “duly stole it”. This was a “wicked” crime and is one which “stands in a league of its own”, according to the judge.

But then Di Stefano, a former associate of Serb war criminal 'Arkan' and director of Dundee football club, was always in a league of his own. And he had quite a long run.

He reportedly served a six-month sentence for fraud and false pretenses in 1975 in Ireland, and a three-year sentence for obtaining property by deception and other charges in 1976 in the UK. Di Stefano insisted that these convictions were those of a different person, called "John" instead of "Giovanni", although they shared the same surname, birthday and birthplace.

Then in June 1984 he was arrested again and charged with fraud before being released on bail. He was again arrested in August of that year and refused bail. In 1986, Di Stefano was tried for conspiracy to obtain property by deception and fraudulent trading, and was convicted after a 78-day trial, jailed for five years, and prohibited from being a company director for 10 years; In 1990 a Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that Di Stefano could not be employed by any British solicitor without permission from the Law Society,

Di Stefano claims to have been freed on appeal, though records indicate his appeal was unsuccessful. After three years in jail however he was back in business, attempting to clinch deals in America and New Zealand before turning up in Yugoslavia in 1991. He obtained Yugoslav citizenship thanks to his "friend" Slobodan Milosevic, and became an associate -political and business - of Zelijko Raznjatovic, better-known as Arkan, leader of the so-called Serb Volunteer Guard, or "Tigers", irregulars operating for the Serb Interior Ministry, who enjoyed rape and pillage as a perk for their job of 'ethnic cleansing'.

In 1997 Di Stefano wrote warning British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that British soldiers would be killed if they made any attempt to bring in Arkan as a war criminal. The businessman-"lawyer" also boasted to the Sunday Times that he had met John Major several times, and that he had donated £10,000 to the Tory party before his conviction and another £20,000 after release. He insisted there was nothing irregular about this.

"I am a Conservative. I'm the epitome of conservative.
It is not an offence to give money to politicians for their services" (Sunday Times, July 27, 1997)

As Arkan expanded into various businesses in Serbia, from flowers to a football club, Di Stefano too began popping up as fairy godfather offering to invest money in cash-strapped British soccer clubs - Dundee, Norwich, Northampton Town, - and even a doomed Northumberland colliery. Somehow, while still abroad, he knew where to dangle his carrot.

Arkan boasted that he would go to the Hague if wanted, and bring down all sorts of people. He was gunned down himself in a Belgrade hotel, and obviously no longer required the services of his lawyer and partner Di Stefano. Then Di Stefano came under investigation in Italy in connection with business affairs. But somehow he survived to fight another day.

Tony Clarke, the Labour MP for Northampton South, who fought attempts by di Stefano to take over Northampton Town football club, said: "Everything about this man is shrouded in mystery. The authorities need to take a very close look at his legal qualifications, because if he is not legally qualified, heaven knows how that affects the cases he has been involved in."

Somehow, qualified, disqualified, or whatever, Di Stefano claimed some big name clients, big bad name that is - time-share racketeer John Palmer, road-rage killer and bullion robber Kenneth Noye, Dr.Harold Shipman, property tycoon and thug-employer Nicholas "tenants are scum" van Hoogstraten. Indeed he was remarkably successful for Van Hoogstraten, who was sentenced to 10 years for the killing of a business rival in 2002, but released on appeal, even though two of his associates remained serving life sentences.

Van Hoogstraten was ordered to pay the victim's family £6 million in a civil case.
He was estimated at being worth £500 million, though he said his assets in the UK had been placed in the names of his children. His assets in property and farming in Zimbabwe were estimated at £200 million. It may be through Van Hoogstraten that Di Stefano claimed Robert Mugabe as a friend. His ambition to represent Saddam Hussein on trial was less successful, but all in all the lawyer-who-wasn't has enjoyed a brilliant and long career, knowing all the top gangsters. Is this really the end for Giovanni?

Labels: , , , ,


At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote: Is this really the end for Giovanni? I hope so.


Post a Comment

<< Home