Fraudster fails to persuade High Court judge to free him from jail

A convicted fraudster said to have benefitted to the tune of more than £38 million has failed to persuade a High Court judge to order his release from jail.

Giovanni di Stefano, 66, who was born in Italy and lived in Canterbury, Kent, says he is being held in jail arbitrarily because he cannot pay money he owes.

A lawyer representing di Stefano, who was jailed in 2013 after a crown court trial, on Thursday argued he should be released.

But Mr Justice Swift disagreed after considering arguments at a High Court hearing in London.

Giovanni di Stefano
The Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, central London, where Thursday’s High Court hearing was staged. PA/Nick Ansell

Di Stefano was a self-styled lawyer who committed a series of frauds on victims he tricked into thinking he was a bona fide legal professional, prosecutors told jurors at Southwark Crown Court eight years ago.

He was convicted of offences including deception, fraud, and money laundering and given a 14-year prison sentence.

Mr Justice Swift heard how in 2014 a crown court judge also made a confiscation order, under the terms of the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act.

Di Stefano was told to pay £2.5 million or serve an additional six-year jail sentence.

He had not paid.

Barrister David Martin-Sperry, who represented di Stefano at the High Court hearing, said his client was eligible for release under the terms of the 14-year sentence.

Mr Martin-Sperry said di Stefano was now serving the additional six-year term because he had not paid the £2.5 million

He said di Stefano had “no money”, could not pay and argued the sentence was therefore “arbitrary”.

Lawyers representing Justice Secretary Robert Buckland disagreed and said di Stefano’s conditional release date, if the confiscation order was not discharged, was in May 2023.

They said if di Stefano could not pay the sum imposed under the confiscation order, he should ask a crown court judge to vary the amount.

Mr Justice Swift ruled in Mr Buckland’s favour.

“On March 28 2013, the applicant was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment following his conviction for 27 offences of fraud,” barrister Myles Grandison, part of Mr Buckland’s legal team, told Mr Justice Swift in a written argument.

“The applicant’s benefit figure was said to be over £38 million.”

He added: “On March 20 2014, the crown court sitting at Southwark found that the available amount was £2.58 million. A confiscation order was made in that sum.”

Di Stefano’s son, Michael, said outside court after the hearing: “Keeping him in prison is arbitrary and not in the public interest.

“He’s an old man now. He’s entitled to a private room. It’s costing the taxpayer £75,000 a year to keep him in prison. Better to release him and give the chance to earn money and pay what he owes.”