Byline: Karen Price
Life as a multimillionaire is something which most of us dream about. But unless we can change our jobs and become overnight pop stars, Hollywood actors or sporting heroes - or even win the Lottery - it is unlikely we will ever enjoy the luxury of a seven-figure bank account. Karen Price reports on a new BBC TV series that reveals the stories of four entrepreneurs who now live those kinds of lifestyles, but who have made their fortunes in far more controversial ways
AN APPEALS lawyer for some of Britain's most hardened criminals, a villain-turned-kitchen retailer, a sex telephone line boss and a 'professional charmer' are all featured in Notorious.
Series producers Robert Davis and Alastair Cook came up with the idea after the success of a film they made last year, King Con, which was about one of Britain's most notorious conmen who would make pounds 60,000 in six minutes through selling business opportunities, which would then fail.
For the new programme, the four multimillionaires gave the film-makers access to their lives.
'It's really about controversial businessmen who make money on the edges of law,' said Davis.
'It's a look at modern Britain and why people are very keen to line their own pockets and don't really give a stuff about the consequences.
'Each of the four films is a morality tale - the film-makers have delved deep to discover what makes the entrepreneurs tick.'
Despite the controversy which surrounds them, the men featured in the documentary - Giovanni di Stefano, Vance Miller, Nick Cracknell and Guiy de Montford - were willing to have their story told on national TV.
'They are very strong characters with quite big egos so enjoy the limelight,' said Davis.
'We are also offering to tell the other side of their stories and that's what appealed to them.
'But even though it's an opportunity for them to give their side of the story, we are still producing balanced films and all four film-makers question them.'
Davis believes the four-part series, which starts next week, will be an eye-opener for viewers.
'We are very, very excited by the series. We struggled to find these characters and persuade them to get involved.
'But it's a very interesting insight into modern Britain and the ways people can earn lots of money.'
The first episode of Notorious will be screened on BBC2 next Thursday at 9.50pm.
Giovanni di Stefano is no ordinary lawyer. He defends the seemingly indefensible, and now he's arrived in Britain to appeal the convictions of some of the most notorious prisoners in recent history.
In fact, among his previous business clients is Saddam Hussein, who Giovanni describes as 'a nice guy'.
"There isn't a person that can speak a bad word of him,' he says.
His latest clients include M25 murderer Kenny Noye, serial killer Dr Harold Shipman and property baron Nicholas van Hoogstraten.
In the first of the four films in the Notorious series, The Devil's Advocate, film-makers enter Giovanni's extraordinary world for three months to unravel what makes him tick.
Now worth an estimated pounds 450m, Giovanni has led an extremely interesting and colourful life.
Born in the picturesque Italian town of Campobasso, 47-year-old Giovanni moved to England as a child. He was brought up in Northampton and educated in public schools. He claims to have made tens of millions in his 20s by importing videos into the UK from Hong Kong. By his 30s, he'd made hundreds of millions through an attempt to buy MGM studios.
But the deal went sour for his business partners, who either ended up bankrupt or in jail for fraud. In 1992, Giovanni fled to the then war-torn Yugoslavia for safety.
'I thought these people might kill me,' says Giovanni. 'Who the hell's going to come looking for you in a war zone? …