Saddam and van Hoogstraten's lawyer, the BBC and a stalled deal

Mark Byford, the deputy director-general of the BBC, struck a deal with a company linked to Saddam Hussein's solicitor, Giovanni di Stefano, described by the BBC itself as the "world's most controversial lawyer".

Mark Byford, the deputy director-general of the BBC, struck a deal with a company linked to Saddam Hussein's solicitor, Giovanni di Stefano, described by the BBC itself as the "world's most controversial lawyer".

The agreement, which involved the BBC supplying programming to two TV services in central Russia under licence, is now in danger of unravelling amid charges of unpaid debts.

The deal was announced by Mr Byford in February last year when he was in charge of BBC World, the corporation's 24-hour international news channel. It involved the BBC selling programmes to terrestrial broadcaster OTV and satellite service TB+, which would be translated and rebroadcast. The agreement was struck with a UK-registered company, Uralindustry (UK), and its parent, Angloasian Media. Both businesses are run by Thomas Puskas, an Austro-Hungarian entrepreneur.

OTV broadcast the BBC programmes until March. TB+ has yet to begin broadcasting.

The Independent on Sunday has been contacted by suppliers and former employees of Angloasian complaining that they have not been paid. The company has left its offices in the London Playhouse Centre, a broadcast suite in central London, and calls to the company go to an answering service.

Angloasian's accounts show that one of Mr Puskas's joint directors is Michele di Stefano, the son of Giovanni.

Along with Saddam, Giovanni Di Stefano boasts clients such as Nicholas van Hoogstraten, the controversial property developer who was recently acquitted of manslaughter, timeshare fraudster John "Goldfinger" Palmer and "road rage" killer Kenneth Noye.

He was interviewed in March on BBC World'sHardtalk programme, which said the lawyer's "friends and clients read like a Who's Who of the world's most notorious figures".

Mr Puskas, 41, claims he has invested $6m (£3.3m) in the TB+ project. Asked about his links with the di Stefano family, he said: "Giovanni di Stefano is my solicitor and Michele is helping me in the business."

"Technical difficulties" had been encountered setting up TB+, he added. But "we are restructuring and reorganising" and hope, "depending on the technical issues, to be on the air in three to four weeks".

Mr Puskas said the group had closed its old offices while it relocates to new premises let to it by cable TV group NTL. He put problems with employees down to a "former translator who got fired".

As for unpaid suppliers, Mr Puskas said: "It is always a question of your point of view. We have had arguments with a number of companies if the quality was not what it was supposed to be."

A spokesman for BBC World said the corporation had yet to supply any programmes to TB+ under the 2003 agreement and had no financial exposure to Angloasian. He refused to say whether BBC World was aware of the group's links with Giovanni di Stefano. "Normal business procedures were followed."

Mr Byford was promoted from head of BBC World and the World Service to deputy director-general at the beginning of this year. After the resignation of Greg Dyke, he was briefly acting director-general.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own