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EXCLUSIVE: Giovanni di Stefano on his time at Dundee and life in prison

Giovanni di Stefano after being unveiled at Dens Park in 2003.
Giovanni di Stefano after being unveiled at Dens Park in 2003.

Giovanni di Stefano, the former Dundee FC director, has been given the true crime treatment in a new Sky TV docuseries.

But there is no mention of his short, yet ultimately dramatic, spell at Dens Park.

So how does the convicted fraudster, 66, reflect on his time with the Dark Blues, a six-month stint from August 2003 before he left after the club entered administration?

He tells The Courier: “It was a very special time, a time I will never forget and a time I will always cherish.”

Di Stefano is currently serving his sentence at HMP Highpoint in Suffolk and had no participation in the three-part show about his “life and crimes”.

Perhaps that’s no surprise given the interest from filmmakers in the events which led to him being jailed for 14 years in March 2013.

Di Stefano was convicted of offences including deception, fraud, and money laundering following a 78-day trial.

Rewind a decade and the man known as the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ for representing high-profile figures like Saddam Hussein (it later transpired he had no legal qualifications) had arrived in Courier Country, with the Dark Blues in his sights.

Giovanni di Stefano has been reflecting on his short spell at Dens Park.

The self-professed “most investigated man in the world” was offered a place on the Dee board by owners Peter and Jimmy Marr after a previous attempt to buy a stake in the club in 1999.

What followed was one of the most remarkable periods, for good and bad reasons, in Dundee’s history.

He said: “When I look back on it, I have no regrets as we tried everything but the board were not prepared to compromise and voted for administration.

“I would have taken a different route and I voiced that at the time, but the choice was not mine as I was only one voice.

“I would have done things differently if I was allowed to stay and I think I would have saved the club from administration.”

Fabrizio Ravanelli

Di Stefano’s early intentions at Dundee were clear – give manager Jim Duffy marquee signings.

He vowed to stump up the cash to match his mouthy ambitions and said that if the right player was to cost him £1 million then it would be “no problem”.

But it was a free agent capture that would shock the football world.

Giovanni di Stefano and former Juventus superstar Fabrizio Ravanelli in Dundee in 2003.

Fabrizio Ravanelli arrived in the City of Discovery in September 2003, seven years after scoring for Juventus in Old Lady’s Champions League Final triumph over Ajax.

This was a striker who had won five Serie A titles, commanded a £7 million transfer fee when he signed for Middlesbrough from Juve, and won 22 caps for Italy.

Di Stefano says: “I remember fondly bringing Ravanelli to Dens and my son Michael actually bet me that it couldn’t be done when we saw an opportunity!

“But I knew something he didn’t: Derby hadn’t paid his wages so there was an opportunity to get him out.”

He claims he also tried to tempt Paul Gascoigne and Edgar Davids to Dens.

He said: “It was close (Gascoigne), it was an idea for the pot!

“The Marrs didn’t like the idea and I tried to convince them along with Jim Connor but they [the Marrs] vetoed it!

“The same for Edgar Davids. Subsequently, looking at how Gazza played out, they may well have been right, but, who knows.”

It wasn’t long before the Dark Blues ran into financial difficulties and in November 2003 they were placed in voluntary administration with debts of £23 million.

Administration would herald the biggest earners going first and one of the candidates to be first through the exit door was Ravanelli.

Di Stefano wasn’t the white knight the Marr brothers had hoped for and they claimed his financial promises failed to materialise.

Speaking at the time, Peter Marr said: “Basically, we were clutching at straws.

“He offered us help and, for better or worse, we took it.

“Giovanni had promised to put in however many millions and they just hadn’t materialised.

“At the end of it all, it was as simple as that.

“There were too many lies and the whole thing fell apart.”

Leaving prison

The Scottish Football Association also refused to accept di Stefano as a “fit and proper person” and he soon resigned from his position.

In 2023, some 20 years on from his cameo in Scottish football, di Stefano will be eligible for release.

He says he is being held arbitrarily because he cannot pay money he owes.

That’s because in 2014 a crown court judge made a confiscation order where he was told to pay £2.5 million or serve an additional six-year sentence.

Di Stefano said: “I have made numerous offers of how I might best try and earn the money to pay the compensation element of my order but every offer has been refused as they just want me to stay inside for another year and not pay the claimants.”

The infamous names linked to di Stefano – names like Saddam Hussein, Serbian warlord Arkan, road rage killer Kenneth Noye and slain gangland boss John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer – mean the plight of his victims has at times been overlooked.

The Sky docuseries features the story of a woman in America who lost her travel business as a result of a di Stefano-led scam.

Another victim was a disabled man seeking damages for the loss of an arm.

Giovanni di Stefano left his mark on Dundee and the club.

Judge Alistair McCreath told di Stefano – who tricked them into thinking he was a legal professional – in court: “I recognise that you did not actively seek out those whom you defrauded.

“They came to you. You did not approach them but there is more than one kind of predator.

“Some predators hunt down their victims, others lie in wait for them.

“Your victims in this case were all desperate people and people who, because of their desperation, were vulnerable.”

The judge added: “You had no regard for them nor for their anguish. Your only concern was to line your own pockets.”

Caniggia: The exciting documentary Dundee FC fans won’t want to miss

Di Stefano tells The Courier he has put his time in prison to good use.

He says: “I have spent the entire duration of my stay helping people.

“I am proud that I have helped numerous people understand their legal position, help them understand the process, help them draft proceedings, helped some people even read and I’ve helped a number of people leave the system to never return.

“I have lots of plans for my release and I’ve not been lazy over these years and have been in constant contact with my network about after this is over.”

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