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Criminal tycoon faces jail term; INTERNATIONAL.

Byline: By WESLEY JOHNSON

FALLEN media mogul Conrad Black was facing jail last night after being convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.

Lord Black of Crossharbour was found guilty of three counts of fraud and one of obstruction by a jury at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois.

Black was accused with other Hollinger International executives of stealing EUR60m (pounds 30m) from the company's shareholders.

Prosecutors alleged that they behaved like bank robbers secretly swindling the shareholders out of their money.

After the verdicts were delivered to a packed courtroom, prosecutor Eric Sussman called for him to be jailed, declaring that "very conservatively" Black was looking at a sentence of 15 to 20 years.

The jury heard details of Lord Black's lavish lifestyle, which the prosecution claimed was partly funded through fraud.

The panel finally delivered verdicts on the 62-year-old former Daily Telegraph owner and once-powerful chief executive of the Hollinger newspaper empire on the 12th day of deliberations.

Black, who launched an immediate appeal, was convicted of three counts of fraud but cleared of a further six.

The nine women and three men on the jury also cleared him of charges of racketeering and tax evasion.

The jury had to consider 42 counts against Black and his three co-defendants in a highly complex trial.

They had heard the prosecution alleged that the EUR60m mainly came from the sale of hundreds of Hollinger-owned US and Canadian regional newspapers between 1998 and 2001, in which the buyers paid large sums in return for agreements that Hollinger would not compete with the new owners.

Black, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, faced nine counts of mail and wire fraud, two counts of tax evasion and one count each of racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Defence lawyers said the US government was trying to sow prejudice among the middleclass Chicago jurors by stressing the wealthy newspaper executive's "champagne and caviare" lifestyle.

Black waived his right to have the jury decide the amount of assets to be forfeited.

Black's wife Barbara Amiel and daughter Alana comforted him after the verdicts, approaching him during a short break in proceedings.

Black was convicted of mail fraud but cleared of wire fraud.

He could face a maximum sentence of five years for each fraud count and 20 years for obstruction of justice, as well as a huge fine.

Black's three co-defendants were all found guilty of three counts of mail fraud.

They are former Hollinger International vice presidents John Boultbee, 64, of Vancouver, and Peter Atkinson, 60, of Toronto, and attorney Mark Kipnis, 59, of Chicago.

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Conrad Black arrives at the federal building in Chicago
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 14, 2007
Words:440
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