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Conrad Black's 'Trial Of The Century' Begins In Chicago

By Carolyn E. Price     Mar 14, 2007 in Business
Lord Black's jury selection begins today, as Canadian's anxiously await the fate of the ex-pat everyone loves to hate.
Conrad Black's trial, which starts Wednesday in a US federal court in Chicago, will be one of the most-watched legal events in years. "It's going to be the most exciting trial in Canadian history," predicted Peter C. Newman, author of "The Establishment Man" an early look at Black's business career.
The crimes that Conrad Black are accused of are basically that he used Hollinger Inc., the company where he was a substantial shareholder, as his own personal piggy bank and that he ran it with his cronies.
His so-called right-hand hand man was David Radler, who has already admitted to and been convicted of participating in a scheme to steal $32 million from Hollinger and dodge Canadian taxes. Radler has agreed to testify against Black in return for a lesser sentence of 29 months in jail.
The criminal indictment against Black is almost like reading a short story, it's 75 pages long.
In November of 2003, Black was forced to quit his job as CEO of Hollinger International.
In August 2004, a special committee of Hollinger International said that Black and motley crew took hundreds of millions of dollars to which they weren't entitled and finshed up saying that they had overseen "a corporrate kleptocracy". The US SEC made that report public and Black quickly said that the report was full of inaccuracies and slapped the author of the report, Richard Breedan, with a libel suit, claiming that his 500-page report had turned him into "a social leper" and "a loathsome laughing stock".
Two months later, the SEC slapped a civil lawsuit against Black, Radler and Hollinger Inc. that accused them of diverting funds from Hollinger International.
In March 2005, US federal prosecutors said that Black, Radler and Hollinger Inc. were the subjects of a criminal investigation.
About a month later, Black and Radler resigned from Ravelston. That company filed for bankruptcy, saying its liabilities had outstripped its assets. The company said it was also starved for cash because it was no longer collecting management fees from Hollinger Inc. and Hollinger International.
In September 2005, Radler plead guilty to wire fraud charges and was sentenced 29 months in jail and fined $250,000 as long as he cooperated by testifying against Conrad Black.
Black used to own the Telegraph, an influential British newspaper. The new business editor of the Telegraph has this to say about Black and his cadgey crew: "Precisely what Hollinger's celebrity non-executive directors - including veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger, former US defence secretary Richard Perle and former governor of Illinois Jim Thompson - were doing while these alleged shenanigans were occurring has yet to be explained."
Henry Kissinger was the first chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and Jim Thompson was one of its ten members. It has been accused of by 9/11 truth researchers and scholars as being a "whitewash" by the US government, ignoring key facts and testimony. Jim Thompson is also a director and head of the Audit Committee for Hollinger International, the media company founded by Conrad Black.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, the famously pugnacious Black filed a US$11 million lawsuit against author Tom Bower over his book "Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge."
Among other claims, Black alleged the book portrays his wife as "grasping, hectoring, slatternly, extravagant, shrill and a harridan".
Black has mounted a relentless campaign proclaiming his innocence, even having "Conrad Will Win!" T-shirts printed up for his friends.
"He's always the same person. His appearance is that of a man who is confident, who is relaxed, who seems happy," said Patricia Best, a columnist at the Globe and Mail. "He is in fine form. He is convinced of his innocence, and if you give him half a chance, he'll tell you all about it."
Will Black tell his own story where it counts -- on the witness stand?
"That's a big question, and he says he doesn't know," Best said.
"It is up to him. It's his trial, and it's his liberty at stake. So the decision at the end is his. However, his lawyers will obviously have a lot to say about that. But if they're opposed to it and he's for it, they can't stop him."
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, Mr. Black. Let's see how you get yourself out of this one, sir.
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