Bogus Italian lawyer Giovanni di Stefano found guilty

High profile lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano
Image caption Giovanni di Stefano boasted of having represented notorious criminals, including Harold Shipman

A self-styled Italian lawyer has been found guilty of tricking people into thinking he was a bona fide legal professional.

Giovanni di Stefano was convicted of 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011.

Di Stefano, 57, of Canterbury, is known as the "devil's advocate" for representing high-profile criminals.

The ex-Dundee football director has worked with train robber Ronnie Biggs and Saddam Hussein's legal team.

Di Stefano - who has said his clients included serial killer Dr Harold Shipman and Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic - did not react as the 25 guilty verdicts were delivered at London's Southwark Crown Court.

The court heard the 57-year-old had fooled clients out of millions of pounds by presenting himself as a lawyer, despite having no legal qualifications and not being registered to work as an advocate in the UK or Italy.

As part of this pretence, he used the Italian word "avvocato" on business cards, letterheads and documents to ensure his clients and the judiciary were given the impression he was a lawyer.

A jury of eight women and four men took four hours and 10 minutes to reach a verdict.

It found Di Stefano guilty of nine counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, eight counts of fraud, three counts of acquiring criminal property, two counts of using a false instrument, one count of attempting to obtain a money transfer by deception, one count of obtaining property by deception and one count of using criminal property.

A 'nice guy'

During the trial, the court was told about Di Stefano's links with President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, and his "friendship" with the daughter of Slobodan Milosevic.

A BBC documentary from 2004 was also shown to the court, in which Di Stefano spoke of Iraqi leader and war criminal Saddam Hussein as a "nice guy".

During the film, he boasted of being asked to defend killers including Shipman, Jeremy Bamber, Kenneth Noye and Linda Calvey.

Di Stefano, who was born in the small Italian town of Petrella Tifernina, moved to Britain as a boy and attended school in Wollaston, in Northamptonshire.

More on this story