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A flamboyant but unqualified lawyer whose clients included deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in jail for fraud.
Giovanni Di Stefano was nicknamed “The Devil’s Advocate” for speaking on behalf of figures including Saddam, former Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz and British train robber Ronnie Biggs.
Prosecutors say he conned clients out of millions of pounds by operating as a lawyer when he had no legal qualifications and was not registered to practice in Britain or Italy, where he had offices.
“Some predators hunt down their victims, others lie in wait for them,” the judge, Alistair McCreath, told Di Stefano. “Your victims in this case were all desperate people and people who, because of their desperation, were vulnerable.”
Di Stefano, who was born in Italy and raised in Britain, was one of several non-Arab lawyers who acted as consultants to the team that defended the deposed Iraqi dictator and associates in his regime.
He also represented many ordinary people, whom the judge said had been left emotionally scarred by “the building of false hopes, always and inevitably dashed, followed by years of misery and frustration as they tried to recover what you had stolen.”
Di Stefano was convicted at London’s Southwark Crown Court this week of 25 charges, including deception, fraud and money laundering.
He pleaded guilty Thursday to two other fraud charges, including stealing 150,000 pounds ($225,000) in compensation intended for a man who had lost an arm in a car crash. Prosecutors said Di Stefano had the money paid into his own business account instead.
Passing sentence, the judge said Di Stefano had caused distress to many people, adding: “Your only concern was to line your own pockets.”