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Black loses bid to prevent Ravelston guilty plea

Globe and Mail Update

Conrad Black has lost a bid to prevent his receiver-controlled company, Ravelston Corp. Ltd., from pleading guilty to fraud charges in Chicago.

Ravleston used to be a key holding for Lord Black and he controlled much of his newspaper empire through the Toronto-based company. Lord Black still owns a majority of Ravleston, but the company filed for receivership in 2005 and his interest has been restricted by the courts.

Ravelston was charged criminally in Chicago along with Lord Black and other former executives of Hollinger International Inc. over allegations they took more than $80-million (US) from the Chicago-based company. Lord Black and three others have pleaded not guilty and none of the allegations has been proven.

Ravelston's receiver, RSM Richter Inc., entered a plea of not guilty at first on behalf of the company. But earlier this year, the receiver reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that includes a $7-million fine.

The agreement was approved by the Ontario court overseeing Ravelston's receivership. However Lord Black appealed the court's decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal arguing that the receiver had not acted in the best interests of the company stakeholders.

This morning, the appeal court dismissed Lord Black's application. His lawyers declined to comment on the decision saying they were still reviewing the court's reasons.

The dismissal clears the way for Ravelston to formally enter its guilty plea in the Chicago court. A trial involving Lord Black and the other defendants is slated to start on March 14.

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