x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Conrad Black loses obstruction and fraud appeal

A three judge panel rule there is sufficient evidence to convict Black even though he was prosecuted using the overturned "honest services" law.

Deposed media baron Conrad Black lost an attempt to overturn his conviction on fraud and obstruction charges in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling, a US appeals court ruled today.

The three judge panel ruled that there was sufficient evidence to convict Black of obstruction and one of three fraud charges even though he was prosecuted using the overturned "honest services" law.

The panel reversed Black's conviction on two of the fraud charges and remanded the case for resentencing and a retrial on the two overturned fraud counts.

"But although the defendants are entitled to a new trial on that count, the entitlement is moot unless the government decides to retry them," Judge Richard Posner wrote in the 15-page opinion.

Prosecutors said they would consider whether to retry Black on the overturned charges.

"We are pleased that the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions on fraud and obstruction counts and we will make our further intentions known to the District Court at the appropriate time after we have studied the opinion carefully," the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement.

Black was sentenced to six and a half years in jail after he was convicted in 2007 of three fraud counts and one count of obstruction of justice.

The US Supreme Court ruled in June that the 1998 law that allowed corporate bosses to be prosecuted for depriving shareholders of "honest services" had been too broadly interpreted.

The clause was a favourite tool for white-collar crime prosecutors precisely because of its broad language, but the highest court in the land ruled it could only be narrowly applied to cases involving bribery or kickbacks.

Black once ran the world's third largest media empire with such titles as Britain's the Daily Telegraph and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Flamboyant in lifestyle and brutal in business, he counted politicians and pop stars among his entourage as he built a towering newspaper empire.

But he was forced to quit as head of the Hollinger holding company when he was charged with siphoning off millions of dollars from the firm, notably when it began divesting its Canadian and US publications in 2000.

Black and his associates were accused of skimming off some $60 million (Dh220.38m) in all between 1999 and 2001.

They were ultimately convicted of stealing $3.5m by awarding themselves tax-free bonuses from the newspaper sell-offs, without the approval of Hollinger's board.

Black's obstruction charge stems from security video footage showing him removing 13 boxes from his Toronto office after he learned he was possibly under investigation by US securities regulators.

He was released from prison in July on a $2m bond pending his appeal but was not allowed to return to Canada as requested and was instead required to remain in the United States.