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Fraud less severe than prosecution argued, report says

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Conrad Black might be facing less time in jail than many expected.

A pre-sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office indicates that the fraud committed by Lord Black and the others at Hollinger International Inc. was less severe than prosecutors have argued, according to court filings yesterday.

Lord Black and three other former Hollinger executives were convicted of fraud over the diversion of millions of dollars from the Chicago-based company. But just how much the men diverted has been hotly contested.

Prosecutors have maintained the fraud involved $32.2-million (U.S.) but lawyers for the others have insisted the amount was far less.

The pre-sentencing report tallied the fraud at $6.1-million. That could have an impact on sentencing because the amount of money involved in a fraud has a bearing on punishment.

The report is standard in criminal cases and it serves as a guide for a judge to use when considering jail terms. It is one of many factors Judge Amy St. Eve will consider during the sentencing hearing on Dec. 10.

In a filing yesterday, prosecutors filed a long list of objections and challenged the $6.1-million figure. "The government has proved by a preponderance that all the defendants should be held responsible for a loss amount of $32.2-million," the filing said.

It is not clear from the filings how much jail time the office recommended for Lord Black. But the report seems to indicate that he should not receive a long sentence for violating securities laws or for masterminding the fraud.

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