tv Devils Advocate The Mostly True Story of Giovanni di Stefano MSNBC June 5, 2022 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT
is. i don't feel like i should have to submit the dna testing. i don't know with the answer to that question is. i don't know the answer to that question. it's hard as an adoptee. >> yes. it's an important conversation to have, but at least we are beginning to have it in this country, and hopefully it will continue. in many gandhi and christina greer, thank you so much. i greatly appreciated your time and your insight. thank you at home for making time for us tonight. i'm ayman mohyeldin. devil's advocate, the mostly true story of giovanni destefano starts right now. >> i am a born catholic. i would not like to be excluded
from heaven on a technicality. my name is giovanni di stefano. i am a lawyer. best known as the devil's advocate. i have defended the indefensible from saddam hussein to charles manson. -- they want a person who they believe has got away with them. if i've committed anything that the media had alleged, i would not be a free man. am i going to be condemned and convicted? on a television program?
♪ ♪ ♪ >> devil's advocate, mr. murder, call him what you will -- the who's who of the criminal world. >> giovanni destefano is one of the attorneys representing saddam hussein. mr. de stefano, good morning to you. >> good morning. >> -- committed the most serious of criminal offenses. do you believe that? i really don't care. i don't live in a fantasy land.
♪ ♪ ♪ the legal world of london is a bit of a village really. it's elitist. the judges and lawyers come from the same place. they've been school together. they will tell jokes among themselves. and along came this very unusual lawyer. with a love of tv cameras and seeing himself on the screen. >> one, two, three. do you vanity stefano. giovanni di stefano. >> the first time i came across giovanni di stefano, he was walking around in the corridors. he was a complete and utter outsider. >> i had heard of giovanni di
stefano through the grapevine. and to start with everybody just thought he was slightly a bit of an odd character. >> i had been introduced to him, yeah, we could do something together. we had -- he had that slightly manic way about him. he made himself big enough by being so energetic. >> in the year 2001, i began my legal precedent. -- [inaudible] but what really launched me, more than anything else was the case of john palmer, goldfinger. >> while the britain's richest businessmen in jail for eight years for master mining --
>> john palmer, nicknamed goldfinger first came to notoriety after being acquitted from the robbery in the 80s. -- where he and his associates she did have thousands of holiday makers into paying deposits on dream flats which often did not exist. >> he was britain's wealthiest prisoner, but now a huge chunk of john palmer's fortune has been confiscated by the judges order. >> giovanni said and we need to have a chat. we sat down and he said look, i've got this john palmer case. >> how giovanni came to represent john palmer is best known to him. >> in 1995, i married my wife. we went on a honeymoon. she is an extremely attractive woman. mister jon palmer bought her breakfast and send her flowers. move now forward to 2001.
my wife read in the newspaper that mr. palmer was convicted. i wrote a letter. i contacted by his advisor who said mr. palmer would like you to help him. >> giovanni spent a considerable amount of time -- confiscation power. he was much more ready to use a legal loophole, where a seasoned practitioner might say well i can see it, but i don't think it has bearings. when he got -- very enthusiastic about it. >> this is something that the british police have in common
with the european counterparts -- targeting people who they believe they think should be prosecuted, because the jury has found otherwise another matter. i think that's wrong. >> -- holding sort of a circus -- outside of the court. appalling behavior in the eyes of the legal establishment. >> the persecution, not a prosecution. >> the john palmer case, giovanni came up with what was clearly a flaw in the system. the court had almost no option but to allow the appeal, because it was wrong. >> today -- a legal battle the judge will debate a series of -- will -- >> giuliani got a 33 million confiscation -- for a notorious criminal. that is a significant feather in your cap in the criminal
we italians and foreigners were not really -- we were seriously discriminated. we were a hated race. >> he's come a long way, not least today which began for giovanni di stefano, making his other appearance of the court of appeal. >> one of britain's richest businessmen was found guilty of the manslaughter for his business associates. the property tycoon, nicholas van hoogstraten hire two hitmen to take revenge against -- >> with motive -- nobody does. it's just full sheet. he owes me money? i'm gonna bump him? it's ridiculous. you don't bump people or chop
their arm off or chop their fingers off. they're going to pay. nicholas van hoogstraten was the robust of the robes. he treated his tenants -- >> back in those days -- i was the richest and biggest landlord. i still got all the necessary gang connections. there's no secret about that. >> -- was one of two witnesses who backed out of testifying against him. but despite this, today the jury decided there was enough evidence to convict him of manslaughter. >> ten years. ten years. they made a big show out of it. we've got this bastard, at last. >> nicholas van hoogstraten was convicted. he immediately wants to appeal. he wanted absolutely nothing to do with him.
eventually, along came giovanni di stefano. >> i got a call. nicholas van hoogstraten we'd like you to represent him. i thought it was a joke. >> nicholas van hoogstraten, an unusual name -- >> this was my hero! >> the self made millionaire. >> the man i looked up to! the peasant boy made good. and i said, well, i will see what i can do. >> he categorically insists he had no part to play whatsoever in the brutal murder of mr. -- >> di stefano is going through the book to see if he could find any way around --
evidence. he realized -- convicted under conspiracy to murder. that nicholas van hoogstraten was only convicted of manslaughter. there isn't an english law, a charge of conspiracy to manslaughter. and di stefano did exploit the law. >> the appeal had been successful -- >> i should never have been tried with these two muppets anyway, these other two guys. i should have never been in the same court with them. >> looking relieved, nicholas van hoogstraten left court this afternoon a free man. >> the two trials in the palmer case completely transformed di stefano's standing. >> a peasant boy from a small village in italy. and you're worth 40, 50 million? there is a bit of humor -- it's a cough completely. ♪ ♪ ♪
>> i'm flying. -- >> the popstar producer and broadcaster -- a child sex abuser. 100% innocent of the convictions. and my lawyer giovanni di stefano guarantees me that the conviction will come under appeal. >> giovanni di stefano had no moral scruples at all. morality never came into his equation. giovanni wanted to take on the impossible. >> -- it would be wrong. >> because his name was harold shipman, he should not win the
appeal. >> as much as i was -- he got [inaudible] high and mighty people. >> we had a video conference. he confirmed that he was not a participant in the great train robbery on the 8th of august, 1963. and short, it was not him. >> di stefano was in love with the media, because it fed his ego. >> hey, hey, hey! ♪ ♪ ♪ >> they did not kill -- >> i had a place in monaco. a place in -- rome.
>> money is unquestionably a factor for giovanni, i suspect no amount would have ever been enough. >> but it wasn't his soul writing factor. >> anyone who knows me knows that i do collect colorful friends. back in 2002, i was a single mother. i had no money. this father of my child was -- child maintenance. so we had to go through the court. i lost the case.
i ended up being a newspapers. mostly because of my background in hollywood. with elizabeth hurley, i dated kevin costner. i was living in temporary accommodation around a chicken shop. i was broken and had lost everything at that point. i got a phone call from my girlfriend who was at the beach club. darling, i've just read your story in the daily mail. it's awful. this is terrible. you've lost your case. and i think my friend can help you. she passes the phone over to giovanni di stefano, and i just get this barrage of, hello. -- >> the court is completely fructify. can corrupted.
>> i had never heard language like that before in my life. >> it's completely left up. >> but giovanni had absolutely read the article and had came to the conclusion that i faced a gross injustice. i was rock-bottom. i certainly have a lawyer in monte carlo saying he will pay for my legal costs. trying to win my right to appeal. >> shall i tell you why i take these cases? because when you are flying so high, sometimes you have got to come back down to earth. >> giovanni invited me to meet at the ritz. all the way tours knew him. he had a beautiful table there.
he loved climber and opulence. everything was going great. i was really positive about where he was taking the case. we were walking out of the ritz, and my handbag just snapped. giovanni said, this is terrible. he grabbed me by the arm, literally by the arm. he dragged me out of the ritz. he said we are going to -- street. whatever i looked at, he would buy. the sales lady -- it was a pretty women moment. we're gonna get a lot of money here. in about ten minutes he spent about several thousand pounds on me. i said, by buying me the handbag, are you expecting me to go back to the rates and go upstairs this time? he just looked at me and said
very confidently, it would be too easy. i just -- i really should have slapped him at that point. that was disgusting. but he had found discrepancies with the filing and he won the right to appeal. i'd say, i know you are a sneaky bastard, but i need you to be a sneaky bastard. i need you to be the devil for me, because in order to win any case in court i actually do need the devil. but i also think giovanni might have needed me as well. giovanni did enjoy the starlight. i think he thought he could pick up some of the glamour. when you have to think back into the early days, hollywood was his number one objective.
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million. he was born in italy and called himself a self made billionaire. he started off as a waiter and now owns one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. -- about how he put together the deal. >> [speaking foreign language] >> i joined forces with them. >> here are three talents coming into the united states. -- and gm. >> mr. di stefano's and his wife lives an extravagant
lifestyle in a beverly hills mansion. swimming pools, rolls-royce. stretched limo. servants courted. >> -- the money ultimately came from -- this will become hollywood's ongoing mystery. >> people thought we had money from the mafia, from the vatican or it was drug money. it was not. we just borrowed it from the bank. >> [speaking foreign language] [speaking foreign language]
[speaking foreign language] >> western governments are arresting a warlord. the most prominent incident in croatia and bosnia, that led tens of thousands of people -- and hundreds of thousands of people as refugees. >> it was portrayed as a once hidden. a criminal. i was his lawyer. [speaking foreign language]
and thanks to that, probably, my life was saved. >> did you knew him when he was a murder and a bank robber in europe? or did you only know him when he was practicing genocide, as a warlord? >> -- it is no longer with us these debt. secondly, well, secondly you have young children. so that's something that we need to have an element of respect for -- >> certainly, he butchered people in the hospital, didn't he? i did not believe that there were suspicions and apple evidence to provide a conviction for the crimes that he was accused of. he was indicted, that's all i know of. >> why are you attracted to these pretty notorious plans? >> i try to do everything within the spirit and the word of the law. and i think, i can attest to that. you cannot grieve, but that's a matter of you, i cannot care.
>> what makes giovanni kick? >> i think he just wants to live a big life. >> he wasn't frightened of living in war zones. they called me and i can hear the phone line and it was a bit odd. i'm like, where on earth are you? he said i'm in iraq. i'm representing saddam hussein. are we married to mutual? only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪♪
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torture, so if your lawyer how do you defend saddam hussein, particularly when you can't even meet with him? >> giovanni di stefano joins us now in this exclusive interview. thank you so much, sir, for joining us on the program. >> thank you. >> i actually did think it was true, and then, he was talking about whatever he was doing over there. and i was like holding, and i was like, yeah, yeah. i literally didn't believe it. >> the question i asked him, why do you take this seriously? >> i don't think giovanni ever took a view about whether his client was actually guilty or innocent. he firmly believed there should be a fair trial of the issues. >> the whole world is beginning to find out not only on the legality of the war, but if the war was illegal, why not charge this man? >> whatever we might think of it as classy, it didn't mean that we could just shoot them.
we have a process. >> if you want to preach democracy and the gospel, according to democracy, in other countries, we've got to start with doing things properly. >> one of the golden fruits of british justice is that every man is entitled to the best possible defense, because even the devil deserves a fair say, when he's brought before a judge. >> at london news stand today, snapping up the revealing photos of saddam hussein, published by the british tabloid, the photo shows saddam in his u.s. prison cell, only in his underwear. the data u.s. military official, undisclosed amount of money for the pictures. that drew an immediate and sharp response from one of saddam hussein's lawyer. >> it is ridiculous that the headline should be named by a man, wearing underwear. it's without a doubt a breach of the convention. without doubt, this is humiliating. >> giovanni was fighting hard
for the rights of saddam hussein. he was going to fight them all the way. and there's something to be said there. >> i want everybody out everybody out has abandoned you. that's a terrible feeling. i've been there before myself, when everybody else thinks that your finished, you are gone and you are a loser, and you're nothing, you're nobody. i had it in most of my childhood here as an italian. >> but giovanni wasn't an altruist. giovanni definitely wanted to represent saddam hussein, because he would have regarded that as a major publicity coup. [speaking foreign language] >> people they probably don't believe so.
mind. so, when i was 22 years of age, i joined the police force. i think it was kind of why i wanted to do, [inaudible] my 30 years of police services, i served in various types of emergencies. kidnappings, drugs. but there was one case that was very different from anything that i'd ever experienced. in 2006, i worked on a file that contained an allegation for, against giovanni di stefano. the complaint was coming from gregory gate. so, i went to see her, sat down with her, and went through the story. >> >> 2003, my husband was
found guilty of murder. while in prison, he seemed a documentary about giovanni di stefano. >> her husband wanted to to appeal against his conviction, and he thought, well, this is the amount for me. this is the man who's gonna help me with my appeal process. >> he wanted to bring giovanni for appealing -- and he did. 100,000 pounds -- >> he gathered money from family and friends. she put her life savings into there as well. the money was given to di stefano. >> despite -- i'm not wear [inaudible] >> she was accusing giovanni di stefano of stealing the money. >> i thought there was a degree of, i guess frustration in her part. it was a very competent lawyer.
she was concerned that he would be too difficult to deal with, contentious. but it was just into -- [inaudible] >> all aggressively gave a documentary testimony on tv. for me, personally, it was crucial when i saw it. giovanni di stefano, opening remarks, something along the lines, i sold five murders. i should be known as mr. murder. when i watch that documentary, i saw somebody absolutely loving this line. >> the fact that i meet with criminals. i'm their lawyer. >> simply, quote for a quote. >> he looked like a guilty
thing. it's the best opportunity as a lawyer to have no clients. he was portraying himself to be somebody who is taking on the legal system's country. you'd expect him a lawyer to go to his office, people running around, and speaking -- >> he was claiming to represent some of the most high-profile criminals that we had in the uk at that time. >> we want -- >> he represented nicholas van hoogstraten. a rich man -- [inaudible] [inaudible] >> but when i looked into these claims, things became far, far more complicated. >> did giovanni ever represent me? well absolutely not. giovanni never represented me in any capacity, at anytime.
>> he was probably connected with this firm that we're acting for me as the time. he anticipated that justice will prevail. and he will be released. >> i would guess that giovanni saw my case because of his high profile as an opportunity for him to gain more publicity. i remember there was nothing i can do about it i. was still in custody. >> that bill against conviction for nicholas van hoogstraten has been successful. and his conviction flushed. >> whether here is allowed to practice here? i don't think he was legally allowed to practice law. in this country. >> they're questioning di
stefano stability. which was legal status? >> very early on, he was asked by a qualified lawyer. he's probably one of the wealthiest conman behind bars. by the vast majority of the time share victims has yet to receive opinion compensation. >> i went to the court of appeal for a hearing on behalf of john goldfinger. >> this persecution, in my view -- >> giovanni was in court. >> on the first day, no justice rose. extremely serious judge. and he said -- [inaudible] >> i said, well, he is giovanni destefano, why? >> this man has been filing legal documents related to his cause. it is not done.
he is actually running this by council and by lawyers with the rights of order in this country. now, this was a big moment. [inaudible] >> giovanni's position was, i am a practicing attorney from italy. and i have the right to practice in the uk. >> he directed 7749, allowing all foreign lawyers the right to practice in each other's jurisdictions. >> the judges did not in any way make it clear to me that they were seized of any evidence to suggest he was not a practicing lawyer. they were just acting on rumor, suspicion, about whether or whether or not he was qualified. >> casting some doubt about whether you're entitled, because you haven't proved to the mueller qualified lawyer. >> i mean, are you qualified in the law? do you have experience with the steal audit? >> do you allege to be a lawyer? if you do -- >> the courts hated him --
and as soon as there where these pressures about whether he was actually qualified as a lawyer or not. he seized upon that. >> it's not done to follow that line, at that stage, desperately want to go. >> giovanni was -- [inaudible] it was inevitably going to lead to a suspicion that he was being monitored. >> this is exactly what the state has wanted me. >> there was a prospect that his telephone was being bogged. instead of informing on what he was doing, he was a target. >> the more i looked into him, no more and more i was
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