Conrad Black denies fraud charges

Media tycoon Conrad Black has denied charges of 11 counts of fraud in the US, linked to a $2.1bn (£1.2bn) sale of hundreds of Canadian newspapers.

US prosecutors say he and three other accused executives fraudulently diverted almost $84m from his media empire, Hollinger International.

An arrest warrant has been issued for the former Daily Telegraph owner, who bought the paper in 1985.

Lord Black was already facing a civil case brought by US regulators.

Each criminal count carries a maximum five year jail sentence and a $250,000 fine.

“Conrad Black asserts his innocence without qualification with respect to each and every one of the charges set forth in the indictment,” Lord Black’s lawyers said in a statement.

“It will be shown that he has, at all times, acted within the law.

“He is confident that, if given a full and fair opportunity to defend himself, he will be found innocent.”

Arrest warrants were also issued for two other former Hollinger executives, but officials have said all three would be allowed to make a voluntary court appearance in federal court in Chicago.

Lord Black was ousted from Hollinger International’s board in 2003. Hollinger International has since sued him.

Lord Black and his co-defendants stand accused of having cheated both Hollinger International’s US and Canadian shareholders, and tax authorities in Canada.

The prosecutor alleges that Lord Black made millions of dollars of unauthorised payments from the firm to himself and others.

He and his co-defendants are accused of perpetrating three fraudulent schemes between 1998 and 2002.

These include $32m said to have been diverted through bogus newspaper deals and $51.8m in “non-competition” fees related to the sale by Hollinger International of assets to CanWestGlobal Communications in 2000.

“Officers and directors of publicly traded companies who steer shareholders’ money into their pockets should not lie to the board of directors to get permission to do so,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

“The indictment charges that the insiders at Hollinger whose job it was to safeguard the shareholders, made it their job to steal and conceal,” he added.

Mr Fitzgerald led the investigation resulting in the recent indictment of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

In total, Lord Black and the other executives stand accused of having diverted up to $83.8m.

Lord Black is also accused of having fraudulently used company money to pay for a lavish birthday party for his wife and for two apartments in Park Avenue in New York.

Prosecutors also say he used a company jet for a holiday with his wife in the South Pacific.

Those charged alongside Lord Black are Toronto accountant Jack Boultbee, former Hollinger International executive and attorney Peter Y. Atkinson and attorney Mark S. Kipnis.

The charges follow a plea deal struck with prosecutors by Lord Black’s former right hand man David Radler.

Mr Radler has admitted a single count of mail fraud and agreed to co-operate and testify against others involved.

He could serve 29 months in prison and pay a $250,000 fine when the investigation is complete.

Hollinger International owns the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper and last year sold the Daily Telegraph and Jerusalem Post.

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