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Black abandoned his duty, jurors told

June 19, 2007|From Reuters

CHICAGO — Conrad Black is just as guilty of a multimillion-dollar theft, and of lying about it, as his onetime business partner who has already admitted guilt, prosecutors told jurors in final arguments Monday at the former media baron's criminal fraud trial.

"These guys were on the same page," prosecutor Julie Ruder said, referring to Black and his longtime partner David Radler, the government's star witness against him, and three codefendants who she said "checked their fiduciary responsibility at the door."

"Conrad Black was just as committed to lying about this scheme as David Radler," she said.

"Mr. Radler took responsibility for these awful events. They did this together," she said, repeating the prosecution's theory that Black and Radler acted in lock step to defraud Hollinger International Inc. and its shareholders out of $60 million.

Radler has turned government informer and pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in a deal that will send him to jail.

The flamboyant 62-year-old Canadian-born Black is now a member of Britain's House of Lords.

Black and three other former Hollinger executives are accused of pilfering $60 million in so-called noncompetition payments that prosecutors say belonged to the publishing giant and its shareholders.

The payments compensated Black and the others for agreeing not to compete against the buyers of hundreds of publications that were being sold to pay off accumulated debt. Prosecutors contend they were essentially nontaxed bonuses the defendants awarded to themselves.

Defense lawyers have tried to show that noncompete agreements were a common practice and that they were properly disclosed to Hollinger's auditors and approved by its board.

Black is charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, racketeering and filing false tax returns. If convicted, he could face decades in prison and forfeiture of millions of dollars.

Black and former Chief Financial Officer Jack Boultbee, 63, also face charges that they abused company perks by allowing Black to use a company jet on a South Seas vacation, to buy a luxury New York condominium owned by the company and to use company funds to defray the cost of a surprise birthday party for Black's wife at an upscale New York restaurant.

Boultbee and codefendants Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis, both lawyers for the company, also face lesser charges.

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