Beyond the grave | 

Patrick ‘Dutchy’ Holland makes beyond-the-grave cameo in new show on fake lawyer

His association with Holland, who had been named as the man who shot journalist Veronica Guerin, made di Stefano known in Ireland.

'Dutchy' Holland with Di Stefano

Eamon Dillon

INFAMOUS Irish criminal Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland makes a cameo appearance from beyond the grave in a new documentary on bogus lawyer Giovanni di Stefano.

The story of the Italian-born fraudster - who styled himself as the Devil's advocate, listing some of the world most notorious criminals and killers as his clients - defies belief.

Such was the tangled web of deceit and bluff he weaved, the Sky three-part series is titled Devil's Advocate: The Mostly True Story of Giovanni di Stefano.

His association with Holland, who had been named as the man who shot journalist Veronica Guerin, made di Stefano known in Ireland.

In the documentary, di Stefano is heard expressing concern that a cameramen will knock over a child amid a scrum of media.

Giovanni di Stefano became known as the Devil’s Advocate for taking on “unwinnable” cases

Then, facing career criminal Holland in the full glare of the media, he tells him: "Can you just repeat - I did not kill Veronica Guerin, I had nothing to do with it?"

Di Stefano also represented the then imprisoned John Gilligan in his battles against the State, at a time when it was claimed the lawyer wanted to buy a League of Ireland football club.

Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland in 2006

His escapades in Ireland were similar to the ways he had previously inserted himself into whoever or whatever would propel him into the limelight.

As one former client, 'It Girl' Birgit Cunningham, says in the first episode: "He just wanted to live a big life."

Mr di Stefano

The heights seemingly reached by di Stefano, a man who never qualified as a lawyer, are incredible. He said he was part of a consortium that bought MGM studios in Hollywood for $1.1 billion.

Di Stefano claimed to have pocketed several million from the deal, while his partners ended up in prison for fraud and MGM was taken over by a bank.

In the programme, he appears in war-torn Serbia where he represents the infamous warlord Arkan, whose militia was guilty of horrendous war crimes in the 1990s.

He appeared regularly on international TV defending the indefensible, moving on then to act as a supporter of Saddam Hussein.

Giovanni Di Stefano

It's never clear if some of his high- profile clients ever knew the Italian, who grew up in Irchester, Northampton in England, was putting himself forward as their lawyer.

After one press conference in which he talks about notorious serial killer Dr Harold Shipman, the murderer's real lawyers had to issue a statement to deny di Stefano had any involvement in the case.

Things began to unravel for di Stefano when a man convicted of murder decided he was the lawyer he needed.

The killer's wife scraped together the £100,000 di Stefano said he needed to get the husband bail, but no application was ever made.

Detective Jerry Walters began to pick apart di Stefano's life, discovering that his most famous client, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, had never actually hired him.

Walters said he knew straight away "it's not your average fraud case".

He started the slow detective work of filling what he calls "the daylight" between di Stefano and reality, a task that took seven years.

The detective found di Stefano's platform on TV had allowed him to find people desperate for help who he instead fleeced for huge sums of money to fund his lifestyle and the illusion of a jetting-setting lawyer.

It included a Californian travel agent taken for $200,000, a crash victim whose £150,000 insurance he simply stole and several more criminals who fell for his spiel.

Delving into his past, it was discovered di Stefano was convicted and jailed over credit fraud as 'John' di Stefano and spent time in prison.

It turned out the bogus lawyer had never been involved in the MGM consortium in any official capacity but had simply befriended one of the main players.

The detective couldn't find any evidence di Stefano had ever qualified as a lawyer in either Italy or Britain.

From the US to New Zealand, from where he had been deported, di Stefano made promises of deals but nothing ever happened, just like his plan to buy Shelbourne FC.

Finally, an Interpol red notice was issued for his apprehension in 2010 and he was arrested at a villa in Majorca.

It took another two years to get the case into court but while on bail di Stefano tried to bring a private prosecution against Det Walters, accusing him of making witnesses lie.

The allegation was thrown out of court as di Stefano then tried to claim he had been working for MI6 all the time and it had been his job to get close to notorious individuals.

In court, di Stefano told of links to Robert Mugabe, Osama bin Laden, and his "friendship" with Slobodan Milosevic's daughter.

The jury found him guilty and he got a 14-year-sentence on 25 charges of fraud and deception.

The Devil's Advocate: The Mostly True Story of Giovanni di Stefano premieres on Sky Documentaries and NOW on February 15.

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