Media mogul Conrad Black on trial for fraud, jury selection on

26 Feb, 2007

The trial of Conrad Black, former media tycoon, has begun with the judge questioning a man who lost money in the WorldCom debacle, a woman whose investments went sour and over three dozen other prospective jurors.

“We lost every dime,” said the woman, who is one of the prospective jurors for the trial of Conrad Black, millionaire and press mogul, charged with siphoning off $84 million from the Hollinger International media empire.

United States District Judge Amy J St. Eve questioned, apart from the man who lost money in the $3.8-billion WorldCom scandal, a woman who said on her pre-trial questionnaire that she distrusted people who make millions of dollars.

After over seven hours of questioning 48 potential jurors, Judge Amy J St Eve dismissed 13 for assorted reasons. The judge, a former federal prosecutor, said she hopes to have a jury soon, with opening statements in a few days.

The judge also disclosed that Donald Trump, real estate magnate, is on the list of potential government witnesses.

Conrad Black, 62, is charged with racketeering and other offences allegedly committed as chairman of the Hollinger International newspaper holding company. He was forced out as chief executive in 2003 and ousted as chairman months later amid a plethora of lawsuits by shareholder and a criminal investigation.

Hollinger once owned the Chicago Sun-Times, the Toronto-based National Post, The Daily Telegraph of London and the Jerusalem Post, as well as hundreds of community newspapers. The Toronto, London and Jerusalem papers have been sold, and the company’s name has been changed to Sun-Times Media Group.

Conrad Black is accused of selling off hundreds of community newspapers in the United States and Canada and pocketing payments from the buyers.

Prosecutors say Hollinger should have gotten the money paid in return for promises not to compete in markets where the newspapers circulated.

Black also is charged with billing the shareholders for a two-week trip to the island of Bora Bora and most of a $62,000 birthday party for his wife. Three other former executives of Hollinger also are on trial.

The Canadian-born Conrad Black, author of an acclaimed biography of Franklin D Roosevelt, is known for his outspoken, aristocratic manner which at times verges on what has been described as arrogance and pomposity.

He gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a full-fledged British baron – Lord Black of Crossharbour – but now wants his Canadian citizenship back.

Prosecutors estimate that the trial could take three to four months and say that, if convicted, Conrad Black could face as much as 101 years in prison.




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