Devil's advocate Gangster John Gilligan's dodgy Italian 'lawyer' to be focus of major new documentary
Di Stefano built his reputation acting for notorious criminals in cases including Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe and Osama bin Laden
The life and times of a dodgy Italian 'lawyer' who advised Irish gangsters John Gilligan and Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland is to be featured in a new documentary.
Giovanni di Stefano (57) adopted the name the Devil’s Advocate after taking on “unwinnable” cases with a client list including time-share fraudster John 'Goldfinger' Palma, Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs and Charles Bronson, dubbed Britain's most violent prisoner.
In 2005, he also made headlines in Ireland when he did a series of interviews on behalf of caged mobster John Gilligan who he claimed to represent.
He also spoke on behalf of Gilligan gang member Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland, who previously was named as the gunman responsible for the murder of crime reporter Veronica Guerin.
However, despite his self-proclaimed legal expertise and high-profile in the media, Di Stefano had no legal qualifications and would end up behind bars.
Now, a new three-part documentary series 'Devil’s Advocate: The Mostly True Story of Giovanni di Stefano' that is set to be released on Sky Documentaries on February 15 at 9pm will further reveal Giovanni's crimes.
Director Sam Hobkinson told The Telegraph: "What he did very cleverly was, he told lies that were very close to the truth.
“Everyone had their questions about this guy – he turns up, he wins cases, but he has no background.
“People had questions about his legal credentials yet nothing happened."
In March 2013, Di Stefano was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment after being found guilty or pleading guilty to 27 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011 related to "tricking people into thinking he was a bona fide legal professional."
Judge Alistair McCreath said that Di Stefano had caused misery to many people and called him a predator for his treatment of "desperate and vulnerable" clients.
He said: "You had no regard for them nor for their anguish. Your only concern was to line your own pockets."
He described Di Stefano's crimes as "planned and persistent," his defence in court as "breathtakingly cynical," and his overall conduct as showing "greed, dishonesty and utter disregard for the sensibilities of others."
Di Stefano hit the headlines in Ireland in 2005 when he took jailed criminal John Gilligan on as a 'client' after meeting him in Portlaoise Prison.
In a series of interviews, Di Stefano claimed Gilligan's extradition to Ireland to face criminal charges in 1997 was flawed and that his subsequent conviction was "unsafe".
Di Stefano also claimed to represent Patrick ‘Dutchy’ Holland, jailed in 1996 for possession of drugs with intent to supply.
Holland, who was named in court by gardai as the man who shot dead Ms Guerin, was later found dead in an English prison cell in June 2009.
Gardai investigating the murder of Ms Guerin believed Holland was the pillion passenger on a motorcycle that was used in the murder.
Di Stefano had once told reporters how Gilligan had vowed to "go straight" when he was released from Portlaoise Prison.
According to the self-styled lawyer, Gilligan had insisted during a series of conversations with him that after spending 16 years in prison he will never do anything to put his liberty at risk again.
Di Stefano built his reputation acting for notorious criminals in cases which propelled him to fame and brought him into contact with Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Robert Mugabe, and even Osama bin Laden.
Even though he had no legal training, he still managed to win some of his cases before his career ended when he was convicted of 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011.
Di Stefano 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.
The publicity-obsessed 'lawyer' also had a high-profile in the UK media after linking himself to various stories.
In 1999, he tried to buy Dundee Football Club, but the deal collapsed amid a protest from the fans.
And two years later he tried to win a seat on the board at Norwich City, but his bid was dismissed by majority shareholder Delia Smith.
However, he won some cases, overturning a manslaughter conviction against Nicholas van Hoogstraten in 2002 and getting him released from prison.
In 2003, Di Stefano secured the release of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer from prison on a technicality, with only a fine of £33million for timeshare fraud, which Palmer later avoided paying.
He was one of several lawyers who worked for Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein before the dictator was executed in December 2006.
Of his friendship with Hussein, he said: “I had about three meetings with Saddam and found him to be a very amenable person.
“He spoke reasonable English, liked a drink… and talked about his children. He was a normal, average, everyday man.
“I took it as a compliment when I learnt from his wife that he wanted me on his defence team.”
In 2013, Di Stefano ran scared from the Sunday World when we confronted him outside a UK courtroom, which had just heard how he duped clients out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by pretending to have legal qualifications.
Jurors had stifled laughter when he described Saddam Hussein as “a lovely man who no- one can say a word against” when a court heard details of his career as a serial fraudster.
Stefano has also claimed he could have got Adolf Hitler off a war crimes rap as he had nothing to do with the holocaust.
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