Wrong Way : The Fall of Conrad Black-US-
ISBN:9781585676361 (Hard cover book)
McNish, Jacquie /Stewart, Sinclair /Publisher:Overlook Pr Published 2004/1
Downfall of Citizen Black
• Conrad Black facing up to 20 years in prison
• Peer convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice
• Former Telegraph boss embezzled $6m from firm
Andrew Clark in Chicago
Saturday July 14, 2007
Disgraced media mogul Conrad Black faces a lengthy stretch in a US jail after a court convicted him of looting millions of pounds from his Hollinger empire by embezzling funds from shareholders.
After more than 70 hours of deliberation, a Chicago jury delivered verdicts of guilty on three charges of fraud and one charge of obstructing justice - although the former Telegraph owner was cleared of a further nine charges, including tax evasion and racketeering.
Prosecutors are pressing for 15 to 20 years, although lawyers suggested it would more likely be closer to five years. Defence lawyers said Black would appeal against the convictions. Looking pale and drawn, he stared stony-faced in front of him as Judge Amy St Eve read out the verdicts. Co-defendants, Jack Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis, were also found guilty of fraud.
In a charged emotional scene, Black's family used a brief adjournment to hurry to his side. Barbara Amiel put an arm round her grimacing husband, who was immaculately dressed in cream suit and mauve tie, while his daughter, Alana, patted him gently and offered comforting words.
The US government petitioned for Black to go straight to prison, describing him as a "flight risk" who could flee to Canada or Britain. Defence counsel Edward Greenspan pleaded for bail to continue, insisting his client would appear for sentencing: "His life - his past, his present and his future - are all wrapped up in this case." The judge allowed Black to remain at liberty pending a hearing on Thursday, but she ordered he remain in Chicago; the peer was forced to hand his UK passport to the court clerk before hurrying away without a word.
Delivered just after 11am local time, the outcome ended a four-month trial and marked a final fall from grace for the press baron who once counted Baroness Thatcher, Princess Michael of Kent and Henry Kissinger amongst his friends.
Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney who brought the case, said it showed "grave concern" about integrity at the highest echelons of multinationals which had arisen when firms such as Enron and WorldCom collapsed. "The message is a very simple one,"said Mr Fitzgerald, who also led the prosecution of the White House aide Scooter Libby. "If you're going to take liberties, and break the law with other peoples' money, there are going to be consequences." There was a public interest need to ensure "insiders in public corporations dealing with shareholders' money do not engage in self-dealing".
The case against Black revolved around a series of phoney "non-compete" agreements attached to the sale of newspapers in America and Canada. According to the US government, he and his colleagues used these little-noticed clauses to skim as much as $60m from Hollinger. But of nine fraud charges, he was only convicted of three, amounting to embezzlement of $6.5m. The jury also threw out charges relating to his expense claims, and billing Hollinger for a holiday to Bora Bora and for his wife's 60th birthday party.
Outside court, Mr Greenspan said there were "viable legal issues" for Black's appeal against the convictions. "Conrad Black was cleared of all the central charges," claimed Mr Greenspan, adding: "We vehemently disagree with the government's position on sentencing."
Throughout the trial, Black has been at Chicago's Ritz-Carlton hotel. He protested his innocence and lambasted prosecutors in vitriolic language, declaring he was "at war" with the US government and branding his assailants as "Nazis".
A lawyer specialising in white-collar crime, Andrew Stoltmann, said chances of a successful appeal were slim, given the leeway allowed the defence: "I think Conrad Black has virtually no grounds for appeal. Judge Amy St Eve bent over backwards to give him a fair trial."
Sentencing was set for November 30 and Mr Stoltmann predicted five to seven years. Black would have to serve a minimum of 85% before parole, but such a relatively short sentence may entitle him to a minimum security "Club Fed" jail.