Interview: Giovanni di Stefano
‘Yeah, I’m going to defend Hitler. And I’m going to win too.’ IZZY BAYNHAM-HERD talks to ‘devil’s advocate’ GIOVANNI DI STEFANO.
Saddam Hussein. The Gaddafi family. Harold Shipman. Ian Brady. Gary Glitter. And now Hitler.
No, not people your parents would find unsuitable to invite home for Christmas. This group of dictators, paedophiles and serial killers have all been defended in court by one man, often refered to as ‘The Devil’s Advocate’: Giovanni di Stefano.
The Devil’s Advocate
Upon entering the Union for my interview, I’m immediately confronted by Giovanni’s enormous entourage. It consists of family members talking rapidly in Italian and gesticulating with perfectly manicured hands, a couple of frowning body guards and various eccentrically dressed friends. And of course, Giovanni himself is reclining on the sofa in the middle of the room. It’s all very Sopranos.
Devil’s Advocate Giovanni is perfectly happy with the nickname his choice of clients has bestowed upon him. When I question him, he launches into a long explanation of how the Devil himself would have a case in court: “Satan, was, at one time, a good angel. He was the right hand man of God. God said ‘Satan do this’ and Satan went and did it. So there was never any problem and this carried on so he had a legitimate expectation that he was God‘s favourite angel.
“But up comes Michael and Gabriel, and before you know what, they have usurped his position. And instead of God saying: ‘Satan do this, do that,’ God said: ‘You, Michael, are my right hand, Gabriel my left,’ and that excluded Satan.
“What a bloody good case that you got there! If I was in court I’d have a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a forensic accountant as to what he’d earned, what he’d lost in his earnings – all sorts of stuff. Great case!”
It quickly becomes clear that Giovanni is a difficult character to pin down. And as he wriggles his way out of answering questions about ethics: our discussion turns, inevitably, to the man most would consider the pinnacle of all that is indefensible: Adolf Hitler.
Next year Giovanni will be appearing on our screens in a Channel 4 series called The Trial of Adolf Hitler, a drama that imagines Hilter is captured by the Allied troops before he can commit suicide. Giovanni will, of course, appear in his defence.
Looking tense – di Stefano has owned two Italian football teams
“Yeah, I’m going to defend him. And I’m going to win too,” he says. Giovanni tramples on my suggestions that the outcome has already been fixed: “No, it’s not, I’m not going out to lose.” Giovanni leans in, lowering his voice to a more conspiratorial tone, and clamps a hand on my shoulder, which he does not remove for the remainder of the interview.
“That doesn’t mean that I love him or I support him, I’m just saying that as a matter of de jure; if you apply the law, with a properly directed jury, admissible evidence, not only would you acquit this man you’d have to bloody apologise to him for even bringing him to court!”
I consider this. He’s waiting for my reaction with a slight smile on his face. This is a man who courts controversy, who deliberately sets out to win as many headlines as cases. I settle for a small yawn, and a slightly raised eyebrow, fully conveying in those two small gestures my moral abhorrence and utter scepticism that an apology to Hitler next year would go down well with the British public, and at the same time a patronising pity that he has to resort to such overtly controversial means to gain attention. I hope I got across that I thought his tie was garish too.
But before I leave, I just have to ask one final question. Did Saddam Hussein have an iPhone or a Blackberry?
“Neither. He had a cloned Sky phone card, because I supplied it! I can tell you, and he used to watch football. And he drank whisky, far too much.”
I thanked GDS, as he often refers to himself (yes, in the third person: I kept a relatively straight face) and left the interview. From this, I think we can glean one piece of advice. When watching the Chelsea-Liverpool match this weekend, put down the whisky. Just think what the combination made Saddam do.