Spain arrests lawyer linked to Saddam defense team

An Italian lawyer who acted as a consultant to Saddam Hussein's defense team has been arrested on suspicion of fraud on a British warrant, a Spanish police official said Tuesday.

Giovanni di Stefano was arrested Monday night in a mansion in Palma on Spain's Mediterranean island of Mallorca, the official said, adding she had no information on the fraud allegations.

Di Stefano was hospitalized after his arrest and will undergo surgery, the official said without elaborating. She spoke from Palma on condition on anonymity, in line with department rules.

Di Stefano has been living in Palma but the official said she did not know for how long.

City of London Police did not explicitly say that di Stefano had been arrested on their orders, but when asked about him a spokesman said a 55-year-old man had been arrested in Palma on suspicion of fraud.

Di Stefano is 55, and British officials routinely use that kind of phrasing to indirectly confirm arrests. In Britain, suspects' names are almost never released before they are charged.

City of London Police said the arrest was part of an "ongoing investigation" but refused to elaborate.

Di Stefano is one of several non-Arab lawyers who acted as consultants to the team that defended the deposed Iraqi dictator and associates in his regime. He also defended former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz, the international face of the Saddam regime.

Ousted in the U.S. invasion of 2003, Saddam was executed in December 2006 after being convicted in the killing of 148 Shiites in a crackdown in 1982 in Dujail, north of Baghdad.