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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 June 2007, 22:43 GMT 23:43 UK
Conrad Black case rests with jury
Conrad Black and wife Barbara Amiel
Lord Black is accused of living a champagne lifestyle on company money
The Chicago court judge presiding over the fraud trial of Conrad Black has handed the case to the jury.

Judge Amy St Eve told the 12 men and women who will deliberate the criminal charges faced by the media baron to consider all the evidence impartially.

They must decide whether Lord Black is guilty of stealing $60m (30m) from newspaper business Hollinger International when he was in charge.

He has denied these allegations, but if convicted he faces decades in prison.

The jury has sat through almost 15 weeks of testimony from about 50 witnesses and has heard Lord Black accused of both being a crook, taking money that rightfully belonged to shareholders in Hollinger International, former owner of Britain's Daily Telegraph, to fund a lavish personal lifestyle.

They have also heard the entrepreneur, who built up a media empire from a single loss-making newspaper in Quebec, described as a victim of an unsubstantiated government prosecution spun round the testimony of a "serial liar".

THE CHARGES
Criminal charges
15 charges of fraud
one of obstruction of justice
one of racketeering

Federal prosecutors allege Lord Black
Fraudulently received non-compete fees from the sale of Hollinger International assets
Deprived the company of his honest services
Repeatedly benefited himself at the expense of the company and its public shareholders through the abuse of company perks

Other executives on trial
John Boultbee - former chief financial officer
Peter Atkinson - former general counsel
Mark Kipnis - former corporate counsel and secretary

Either way, a verdict will mark the end of a long fall from grace for one of Britain's best-known businessmen that began when he was ousted as chief executive from Hollinger in 2003.

He and his co-defendants - former Hollinger International employees Jack Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis - face charges of fraud and false corporate tax returns.

Lord Black faces additional charges of obstruction of justice and racketeering.

Payments

The prosecution have tried to show that Lord Black paid himself and his co-defendants "non-competition" payments from the sale of hundreds of newspapers in the US and Canada.

These are designed to make sure that sellers of an asset - in this case Hollinger - will not re-enter a market it has exited and should go to reimburse the company, not line the pockets of the company's executives, which is what Lord Black and his former associates are accused of.

The British peer's closest business aide David Radler told the US District Court that he had talked of plans to allocate some of the "non-competition" payments to a Canadian company he closely controlled, in phone calls between 1999 and 2000.

But these claims were not proved by backup documents, argue defence lawyers, who have furiously rejected the prosecution's case.

They insist that Lord Black has been persecuted for his successful career and wealthy lifestyle.

Mr Radler pleaded guilty to the scheme and agreed to co-operate with the authorities in return for a lenient jail term of 29 months.




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