An Italian businessman who posed as a lawyer for eight years has been convicted of 25 charges including deception, fraud, money laundering and using a false instrument at Southwark Crown Court today.
The court found that Giovanni di Stefano, who became known as the ‘devil’s advocate’ after taking on supposedly unwinnable cases, was guilty of posing as a lawyer despite not having any legal qualifications.
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Organised Crime Division lawyer Hilary Ryan said in a statement: “For many years, Giovanni Di Stefano described himself to potential clients as a lawyer and usually as an Italian ‘avvocato’. He was nothing of the sort. When the law caught up with him, he falsely claimed to have obtained various formal, legal qualifications. He then went on to claim that having taught himself the law, he was entitled to describe himself as a lawyer. This was fraud by anyone’s standards and a charade that he kept up for over eight years in order to line his own pockets.
“People rightly expect the utmost integrity from those in the legal profession. Giovanni Di Stefano routinely tricked his clients and abused their trust. Those who seek to behave in such a cynical way should take note of this conviction today.”
The charges related to activities carried on between 2004 and 2012. Sentencing is expected tomorrow (28 March).
15 New Bridge Street’s David Aaronberg QC was instructed for the CPS. Gary Bloxsome, a partner at London crime specialists Blackfords, instructed Carmelite Chambers’ Leonard Smith QC for di Stefano.