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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 19:46 GMT
Did Conrad Black get off lightly?
By Nils Blythe
Business correspondent, BBC News

Lord Black during his court case
Black has been sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison

The six-and-a-half year sentence imposed on Conrad Black by Judge Amy St Eve is a heavy penalty, but a great deal less than he faced at the start of his trial.

He was originally charged with 16 offences, but three of the charges were dropped during the trial and the jury cleared him of some of the most serious offences including racketeering.

The three fraud charges on which he was convicted involved swindling shareholders out of $6.1m (3.0m).

He was also found guilty of obstructing justice after he was caught on closed circuit television removing boxes of documents from his office while he was under investigation.

'Absolutely nothing wrong'

After the verdicts the prosecution argued that the appropriate sentence for these offences was a jail term of over 20 years.

Prosecutors also argued that in interviews - including one with the BBC - Black had continued to argue that he had done "absolutely nothing wrong" and that this should be taken into account in imposing sentence.

The judge decided on a much shorter jail term than the prosecution had sought.

But Black will have to serve 85% of the sentence imposed.

His fate contrasts sharply with that of David Radler, his long-term business partner who was heavily involved in the frauds for which Conrad Black was convicted.

Radler agreed a plea bargain with prosecutors in which he agreed to give evidence against Black in return for a 29-month sentence on a single count of fraud.

That sentence is likely to be served in Radler's native Canada and under Canadian parole rules he may serve as little as six months in an open prison.

Gave up citizenship

Conrad Black was born in Canada, but he gave up his citizenship in order to become a British peer.

If he were transferred to a British jail he would be eligible for British parole rules, which could mean spending around half the sentence in jail.

But Black has told the BBC that such a move would require the co-operation of US prosecutors and he described the chances of getting that co-operation as "zero".

He has been ordered to begin his sentence in twelve weeks' time.

Lord Black has also been fined $125,000 and has been ordered to forfeit $6.1m.

He is believed to own substantial assets, but faces a number of civil law suits claiming hundreds of millions of dollars of damages on behalf of shareholders in his former company.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Background to Conrad Black's fall from grace





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