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Conrad Black jurors told of investor's fear

March 23, 2007|From Reuters

CHICAGO — Jurors at Conrad Black's trial were told Thursday that a major investor in Black's media company blew the whistle on fees and perks that Black and his lieutenants were collecting, and that the Canadian-born millionaire was out of a job not long after that.

The testimony came from the U.S. government's lead witness, Gordon Paris, who succeeded Black as head of Hollinger International Inc. after chairing an internal committee that accused Black and his associates of running a "corporate kleptocracy."

But lawyers defending Black and three former associates against criminal fraud charges peppered Paris' testimony with objections to make sure that he did not mention the committee's report itself. The judge presiding over the trial, Amy St. Eve, has ruled that the report cannot be referred to in testimony, leaving jurors to fill in the blanks.

Paris took over as chief executive of Hollinger, which has since been renamed the Sun-Times Media Group Inc., in 2003 but resigned in 2006. He told jurors that Hollinger's second-largest shareholder, investment firm Tweedy, Browne Co., first raised alarms about management fees, non-compete fees and perks collected by Black and other Hollinger executives.

Black is charged with fraud, racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice that could result in a maximum sentence of 101 years, plus millions of dollars in fines.

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