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'Devil's advocate' to Irish mobsters was fake lawyer

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Giovanni di Stefano 1...17/11/05 ( file) John Gilligan s lawyer Giovanni di Stefano arriving at the High Court where the State is appealing a High Court ruling which stated the confiscation of Gilligan s Jessbrook Equestrian Centre and acres of land in Enfield and homes in Lucan was unlawful. Picture Garrett White / Collins See High Court copy

Giovanni di Stefano 1...17/11/05 ( file) John Gilligan s lawyer Giovanni di Stefano arriving at the High Court where the State is appealing a High Court ruling which stated the confiscation of Gilligan s Jessbrook Equestrian Centre and acres of land in Enfield and homes in Lucan was unlawful. Picture Garrett White / Collins See High Court copy

Giovanni di Stefano 1...17/11/05 ( file) John Gilligan s lawyer Giovanni di Stefano arriving at the High Court where the State is appealing a High Court ruling which stated the confiscation of Gilligan s Jessbrook Equestrian Centre and acres of land in Enfield and homes in Lucan was unlawful. Picture Garrett White / Collins See High Court copy

A SELF-styled Italian lawyer who became known as the 'Devil's Advocate' and advised Irish gangsters John Gilligan and Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland 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.

 

Advocate

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.

In 2005, Di Stefano agreed to advise jailed criminal John Gilligan. He met the convicted drug dealer in Portlaoise Prison and agreed to represent him.

Mr Di Stefano said Gilligan's extradition to Ireland to face criminal charges in 1997 was flawed and that his subsequent conviction was "unsafe".

Gilligan was acquitted of the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin but was jailed for cannabis dealing.

Di Stefano also said he would represent Patrick "Dutchy" Holland, jailed in 1996 for possession of drugs with intent to supply.

Holland (70) was named in court by gardai as the man who shot dead Veronica Guerin.

The veteran gunman and criminal was found dead in an English prison cell in June, 2009.

He had been serving an eight- year sentence for his role in a multi-million euro plot to kidnap an English businessman.

Gardai investigating the murder of Ms Guerin believed Holland was the pillion passenger on a motorcycle that was used in the murder.

During his trial in the Special Criminal Court, a woman Garda named him as the man believed to have been the killer.

In January last, Di Stefano told reporters that John Gilligan had vowed to "go straight" when he was released from Portlaoise Prison later this year.

According to the lawyer, Gilligan (59) 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.

Last June, the Circuit Criminal Court heard a claim from an an solicitor who stole €450,000 from his company and clients that Di Stefano threatened his two daughters.

David O'Shea, (44), from Terenure, pleaded guilty to 26 counts of fraudulently taking money between 2002 and 2008.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring was told O'Shea claimed he had been threatened by Di Stefano.

 

Threatened

Mr O'Shea's lawyer read from a statement made by Mr O'Shea which said: "Giovanni Di Stefano threatened me and in one phone call said that I had two lovely daughters. I was aware he he had dealt with (two individuals) who were known to the Gardai in Limerick."

He said he tried to borrow the money from a bank to pay Di Stefano but when that failed he used €82,750 which was meant to cover stamp duty on a client's property.

O'Shea was later jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and Robert Mugabe, Di Stefano has always cut a controversial figure.

He built his reputation acting for notorious criminals in cases which propelled him to fame within his profession and even brought him into contact with Osama bin Laden.

mlavery@herald.ie


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