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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 15:25 GMT
World's most controversial lawyer?
Controversial lawyer
Giovanni di Stefano

In a HARDtalk interview on 23 March, David Jessel talks to controversial millionaire lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, whose freinds and clients read like a "Who's Who" of some of the world's most notorious figures.


He's been referred to as "the devil's advocate" and has said he would be prepared to represent Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler.

The Anglo-Italian lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, has represented the timeshare property fraudster John "Goldfinger" Palmer and the "road rage" killer Kenneth Noye in Britain.

He now says he's working on an appeal for Jeremy Bamber, who was convicted of murdering five members of his family.

Shipman

Giovanni Di Stefano has also claimed that he was working on an appeal for Britain's most prolific serial murderer, Dr. Harold Shipman, when Shipman committed suicide.

He told HARDtalk that he had doubts about the validity of his conviction:

"Now I ask myself the question why, why, why was that man not convicted properly?

Because, in my view, if he'd had the opportunity of having forensic pathology, of having independent post-mortem, he may very well still have been convicted but at least it would have been a safe conviction."

Multi-million Pound Fortune

Mr. Di Stefano has claimed on numerous occasions to have amassed a multimillion pound fortune.

He was involved in a failed attempt to buy MGM film studios. He is reported to have made $200 million from that while his business partners ended up bankrupt or in jail.

More recently, Giovanni Di Stefano's credentials as a lawyer have been questioned, including by an English high court judge.

So far he has refused to prove that he qualified as a lawyer in Italy, as he claims. He told David Jessel that speculation about his status did not bother him.

Arkan

David Jessel questioned him about his friendship with the Serbian warlord Arkan, who was assassinated in 2000.

He was a great guy. He was a great person
Giovanni di Stephano

"He loved me very much as a human being. And I liked him as a person. He had good morals. He was a good person. And I'm not ashamed of saying it." he said.

He denied that Arkan's Serbian Guard of Volunteers carried out genocide and denied funding them: "Not at all. I only wish he had asked me. I certainly would have offered."

Bin Laden

He has said that he met Osama bin Laden in Baghdad in 1998. "He had a handshake like a woman. He had a soft voice. He spoke like a priest.

How can you decide a person on a few minutes conversation? I didn't know what I was stumbling on.

He was a nothing and a nobody then. It was well before the bombings there. And, had I known what I know now, I should have, as Arkan said, probably killed him."

Making his incredulity at some of what he was hearing plain, David Jessell tried to pin Giovanni Di Stefano down on what it is that makes him tick:

"I try to do everything within the spirit and the word of the law. And I've been successful at that. You might not agree but that's a matter for you. I really don't care."

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 19:30 GMT and 00:30 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30



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