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The Battle of Black

The basics of what Conrad Black calls 'the putsch' against him are well known. Along with three other executives, he will be appearing in a Chicago court next week to answer allegations that they took more than $80-million (U.S.) from Hollinger International. All have pleaded not guilty. And Lord Black -- who faces charges including fraud and money laundering -- does have some sound defences. So what kind of fight can we expect? The Globe and Mail's Paul Waldie presents the 10 most likely shots from each camp.

Globe and Mail Update

PROSECUTION

Conrad Black: If Lord Black testifies, prosecutors will probably do their best to provoke him into coming across as arrogant and pompous for the jury. However, given his track record at another U.S. court hearing in 2004 involving a proposed sale of Hollinger -- where a judge concluded his actions were "cunning and calculated" -- Lord Black's lawyers probably don't want to see him on the stand.

The main man: The prosecution's key witness will be David Radler, Lord Black's right-hand man for more than 30 years. They will rely on the Montreal businessman to outline in detail how the alleged scheme to siphon off money worked and how Lord Black and others kept information from company directors. What makes Mr. Radler a really compelling witness: He is known for keeping every scrap of paper and is intimate with the inner workings of Hollinger.

Tough tactics: The prosecution will probably adopt the aggressive stand of its chief, Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Although he probably won't be leading the daily charge in the courtroom, the man known for chasing Osama bin Laden and mob bosses John and Joseph Gambino will be providing critical guidance to his assistants. He's also coming off a big win with this week's conviction of U.S. vice-presidential aide Lewis (Scooter) Libby. He earned a reputation during that case for his muscular approach, something likely to carry over into Mr. Black's trial.

Over the horizon: Prosecutors will zero in on a series of deals involving Hollinger's sale of newspapers to Horizon Publications Inc., a private company co-owned by Lord Black. While many other transactions in the case are complicated, this one is fairly straightforward. Hollinger allegedly sold the papers at a big discount to Horizon and even paid Horizon not to compete in the same communities. What prosecutors will try to show is that Lord Black's personal businesses benefited and he was paid not to compete against himself -- all allegedly at the expense of Hollinger shareholders.

The companies: Prosecutors don't just have David Radler in their corner. They can also point the jury to two former companies once controlled by Lord Black that have turned against him. Hollinger Inc., which is under new management, has signed a co-operation agreement with prosecutors. And Ravelston Corp. Ltd., Lord Black's old holding company, has pleaded guilty. Ravelston is in receivership and the receiver entered the plea despite Lord Black's objections.

The report: Prosecutors will probably try to use a 500-page report prepared by a committee of Hollinger's board three years ago as a road map for the jury. The report was the culmination of an internal investigation into alleged misconduct at the company. It portrayed Hollinger under Lord Black's management as a "corporate kleptocracy." Prosecutors can be expected to cite numerous statements Lord Black and others made to the committee during its investigation.

The crusader: Another key witness for the prosecution will be Richard Breeden, a former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Breeden led Hollinger's internal probe and wrote the hefty report that outlined all the alleged wrongdoing. Mr. Breeden knows the issues inside out at Hollinger and he won't be holding anything back. He has been highly critical of Lord Black and he could prove to be a formidable witness, given his reputation at the SEC as a fierce fighter of corporate crime. He once told his staff that an alleged lawbreaker "should be left naked, homeless and without wheels."

The directors: Prosecutors are also expected to call several former Hollinger directors as witnesses. They are expected to say that they were not informed of the details surrounding payments to Lord Black and that he duped them for years.

The spending: Prosecutors will probably pound away at Lord Black's lavish lifestyle. They have already alleged in court filings that he used company cash to pay for a birthday party for his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, and to cover a variety of personal expenses such as a trip to Bora Bora, $2,700 (U.S.) in opera tickets, $2,500 (U.S.) for handbags, $3,500 (U.S.) worth of silverware for his private jet and nearly $25,000 (U.S.) for "summer drinks."

The paper trail: Prosecutors have a long trail of documents they can rely on to prove allegations that Lord Black and others diverted company money to themselves. A jury may find some of the musings by Lord Black particularly damning -- such as "I am not prepared to re-enact the French Revolutionary renunciation of the rights of the nobility," or "It's my company, and I'll decide when and what to tell the board."

DEFENCE

The turncoat: Lord Black's lawyers will zero in on David Radler and pick apart his testimony. They can be expected to point out that Mr. Radler signed a plea agreement with prosecutors -- who offered leniency in return for his testimony. And they will probably argue that whatever wrongdoing occurred at Hollinger was Mr. Radler's responsibility, because he was the day-to-day operator in Chicago, while Lord Black was based largely in London. If Lord Black's lawyers can discredit Mr. Radler's testimony, they will go a long way toward winning their case.

The legal standard: So-called related-party transactions -- such as selling Hollinger newspapers to companies owned by Hollinger executives -- are not uncommon in the business world, many legal experts say. This means that prosecutors could have a hard time proving the Hollinger deals were criminal, even if whatever happened at Hollinger might be grounds for a civil case or regulatory probe.

The board: Hollinger was not a one-man show. The company had a board of directors stacked with luminaries such as former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former White House adviser Richard Perle and a host of other ex-diplomats and ex-politicians. His lawyers can be expected to argue that they approved the transactions at issue in the trial and that everything was done by the book. And Lord Black and other shareholders presumed they were doing their jobs.

It's legit: There is nothing improper about "non-compete" payments. These fees are typical in the newspaper industry because someone buying a newspaper wants to be sure the seller won't start up a rival in the same community. When CanWest Global Communications bought virtually all of Hollinger's Canadian newspapers in 2000 for $3.2-billion, for example, CanWest allegedly demanded that Lord Black sign a non-compete agreement. The non-compete clause was a key part of the deal for CanWest, Lord Black has argued.

The faulty witness: A key witness for the prosecution is expected to be former Hollinger director Richard Burt, an ex-diplomat who was once U.S. ambassador to Germany. Mr. Burt allegedly heard a confession about wrongdoing by Peter Atkinson, one of the accused. Mr. Atkinson has denied the allegations and his lawyers argue that Mr. Burt's recollection is suspect because he had brain surgery just before the alleged confession. Mr. Burt has acknowledged in court filings that the surgery resulted in "some short-term memory loss," but he has insisted that he is fully recovered.

The advice: Hollinger had teams of lawyers and accountants who pored over the deals cited by prosecutors. In most cases, they signed off on the transactions and the fees. Lord Black's lawyers can be expected to argue that company advisers did not sound the alarm.

The rulings: Lord Black's lawyers have already succeeded in their efforts to rein in the prosecutors. The trial judge has turned down their bid to broaden the case to include allegations made against Lord Black 25 years ago. The judge also said the prosecutors can't go into allegations he improperly used Hollinger money to make charitable donations or to purchase $9-million (U.S.) worth of Franklin D. Roosevelt memorabilia.

Jurisdiction: One of the charges against Lord Black involves allegations that he took 13 boxes from his office in Toronto despite a 2005 Ontario court order prohibiting the removal of documents. Lord Black returned the boxes a few days later, but prosecutors claim his action amounted to obstruction of justice. Lord Black's lawyers will continue to question how he can be tried in Chicago for alleged conduct that occurred in Toronto.

Spending: While the prosecutors may push Lord Black's lifestyle, his legal team will probably argue that it is irrelevant to the case and not extreme by the standards of other big business people. They can also take comfort knowing that lavish spending arguments don't always sway juries. Dennis Kozlowski, former head of Tyco, faced criminal charges that he looted the company out of $600-million (U.S.). That case included stories about a $2-million birthday party and a $6,000 shower curtain. Mr. Kozlowski was convicted, but jurors said later that the tales about his lifestyle was not a big factor.

Edward Genson: While Toronto lawyer Edward Greenspan gets most of the attention in Canada as Lord Black's lawyer, the former media baron's ace in the hole could be his Chicago counsel. Mr. Genson, 65, has a folksy, friendly manner that will no doubt go over well with jurors. He's been practising law in the city for four decades and is well known to the locals.

THE PLAYERS

PETER ATKINSON

Conrad Black has retained Toronto litigater Peter Atkinson since the 1970s -- eventually appointing him executive vice-president of Hollinger International. When a special committee of Hollinger directors challenged non-compete payments to Lord Black and his key executives, Mr. Atkinson agreed to repay his share. And, according to a deposition filed in a Delaware court, after one session with the special committee, "He said that he had been asked to lie, cover up . . ." In 2005, Mr. Atkinson was indicted on six counts of mail and wire fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

Jacquie McNish

JACK BOULTBEE

The U.S. Justice Department described John A. "Jack" Boultbee, a key financial adviser to Conrad Black, as the "architect" of many of Hollinger's controversial tax strategies, which saw millions of dollars in non-compete payments pocketed by Lord Black, Mr. Boultbee and other executives. For most of his Hollinger career, the accountant lived in Toronto, where he spent lavishly on homes and vintage cars such as an Aston Martin. He was fired by Hollinger International in 2003 and in 2005 was charged with eight counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

Jacquie McNish

EDWARD GENSON

One of Chicago's top criminal lawyers, Edward Genson is perhaps best known for whacking his cane on tables during trials to get attention. The 65-year-old became interested in law as a child after following around his father, a bail bondsman. He graduated with a law degree from Northwestern University, eventually building up a base of high-profile clients. While he hadn't met Lord Black before he was hired for his defence team, Mr. Genson had close ties to his Toronto lawyer, Edward Greenspan. Mr. Greenspan's daughter, Julianna, worked in Mr. Genson's office for five years.

Paul Waldie

EDWARD GREENSPAN

In addition to his famous clients, criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan has gained fame over the past 40 years for his withering cross-examinations, tenacious preparation and high-profile press conferences. The 63-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., was first noticed for his colourful style while working on the murder trial of Peter Demeter in 1974. Mr. Demeter was convicted, but his junior counsel won acclaim for his cross-examinations. Since then, he has acted for former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan, Garth Drabinsky and Robert Latimer. Mr. Greenspan is representing Lord Black in the current proceedings.

Paul Waldie

JUDGE AMY ST. EVE

Forty-one-year-old Amy St. Eve is one of the youngest federal judges in the United States. After graduating at the top of her class from Cornell University's law school, she worked in New York on a team that investigated the Whitewater scandal -- a probe that resulted in three convictions. She then worked for the U.S. Attorney's office in Illinois, prosecuting dozens of cases, from corporate fraud to gang violence. In 2002, she was appointed to the bench, despite her age and limited political connections. Said to arrive at her office at 6 a.m., she has cleared away a backlog of 200 cases.

Paul Waldie

MARK KIPNIS

Mark Kipnis had no media company experience when he was hired as the in-house lawyer at Hollinger International in 1998. Working in Chicago, he reported to David Radler -- a demanding boss who insisted on weekend meetings and on being driven around the city. According to allegations filed in court, Mr. Kipnis did most of the paperwork on a series of transactions key to the case against Lord Black and the other defendants. Prosecutors allege Mr. Kipnis lied to company directors about the nature of the deals, which allegedly resulted in millions of dollars in payments. Mr. Kipnis has denied the allegations.

Jacquie McNish and Paul Waldie

PATRICK FITZGERALD

Dubbed "America's toughest prosecutor," Patrick Fitzgerald has made a name for himself by going after terrorists, mobsters and politicians. The Brooklyn native was born in 1961 to Irish immigrants, his father a doorman in Manhattan who rarely took time off. Mr. Fitzgerald has also gained a reputation as a brilliant, hard-working prosecutor who rarely leaves his office. In 2001, the Harvard alum was named the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. He was seen as someone who could clean up a series of corruption cases that had plagued the city.

Paul Waldie

DAVID RADLER

David Radler has been Lord Black's hard-nosed operating partner since the two joined forces more than three decades ago to acquire the Sherbrooke Daily Record. But in 2003, the Montreal-born businessman resigned from Hollinger after a special committee of directors alleged that he and other executives -- including Lord Black -- had improperly pocketed $32-million. In 2005, he went on to plead guilty to mail fraud. After striking a deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office that will see him testify against Lord Black, the 64-year-old will serve a sentence of 29 months in prison and pay a $250,000 fine.

Paul Waldie and Jacquie McNish

80: Number of lawyers involved in the case

11,000: Approximate number of emails filed - including many between Lord Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black

3 months: Expected length of the trial

$1-billion: Total potential claims against Ravelston Corp. ltd., once a key holding in Lord Black's business empire and now in receivership.

$1.08: Hollinger Inc.'s share price on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of last Thursday. It traded above $10 in 2002.

59: Percentage of Canadians an Angus Reid poll indicates would not feel sorry about a Black conviction.

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