THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE; He Boasts of Being a Millionaire, a Friend and Lawyer to Warlords and Violent Criminals, and the Saviour of Dundee FC. Now He Claims He Can Save Saddam from the Noose. Welcome to the Bizarre World of Giovanni Di Stefano
Byline: ALISON MACFARLANE
GIOVANNI Di STEFANO is a diminutive man who enjoys grand proclamations. Rarely, if ever, do they stand scrutiny. As the multimillionaire lawyer swept into Dundee FC as a director last year, promising largesse beyond the club's wildest dreams, he declared: 'I am the most investigated man in the world.' As he tried to sue Gordonstoun School two years ago over claims that his son was racially abused there, the indignant father promised: 'I will call Prince Charles as a witness.' The latest grand proclamation came as Di Stefano began shouting from the rooftops that he was one of a team of 20 international lawyers tasked with saving Saddam Hussein from the death penalty in Iraq.
' I will look forward to calling and crossexamining what will be ex-Prime Minister Blair and ex-President Bush,' he boasted, before going on quite farcically to argue that the deposed tyrant should be released on bail.
There are many sides to the Italian-born defender of the indefensible, all of which lead to the conclusion that he and the Iraqi dictator probably deserve one another.
There is Di Stefano the convicted criminal, described by an English judge as 'a swindler without scruple or conscience', who was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in a [pounds sterling]25million fraudulent bankruptcy plot in the 1980s.
There is the pedlar of untruths who falsely claimed he had a PhD from Cambridge University and insisted his fraud conviction had been overturned on appeal - in fact, the appeal was dismissed. There are also serious doubts as to whether or not he is a qualified lawyer at all.
Clients he has claimed to represent include mass murderer Harold Shipman - despite the legal firm appointed to handle Shipman's defence insisting he had no connection with their case - M25 killer Kenneth Noye and Serbian warlord Zeljko 'Arkan' Raznatovic, a close personal friend who made him an honorary general in his militia before dying in a hail of gunfire in a Belgrade hotel four years ago.
Di Stefano then went on to claim he was one of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic's legal advisers, and that Saddam Hussein - his biggest legal headliner yet - was another 'personal friend'.
Beyond the sphere of his legal 'clientele', the namedropping goes on - Osama bin Laden, Mohamed Al Fayed, Yasser Arafat, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Gerry Adams, Robert Maxwell- he, naturally, claims to have met them all.
Then there is Di Stefano the flamboyant businessman who tried to buy U.S.
film studio MGM and ended up being deported from the country, and who last year promised Dundee FC [pounds sterling] 26million and a future challenging Rangers and Celtic for the league title, but left it floundering in administration a few months later.
IT was the second occasion his affairs in Scotland have contributed to his international notoriety. When his son Milan was barred from classes at Gordonstoun, he announced plans to sue the school in Moray for racist abuse, physical cruelty and political prejudice.
The reason the 17-year-old was barred was that his father had failed to pay the [pounds sterling]19,000a-year school fees, yet Di Stefano still argued the boy was persecuted because of his father's friendship with the Serb warlord Arkan, and set about trying to destroy Gordonstoun's reputation.
'The school is not for academically brilliant children,' he fulminated to the media. 'If you want your children to go to university, don't send them to Gordonstoun.' Then, with a flourish typical of the man, he claimed his star witness would be former Gordonstoun pupil Prince Charles. Quite how the heir to the throne, who left the school some 30 years before Di Stefano junior joined, could bring any expertise to bear on racial persecution claims remained unclear.
What is known is that the lawsuit was quietly dropped and the Prince of Wales's old school launched its own legal action to recoup [pounds sterling]32,330
DEVIL'S ADVOCATE in unpaid fees - a drop in the ocean, perhaps, for a man who claims to have [pounds sterling]450million. …