The disgraced former media tycoon Conrad Black is at war with the US government, he tells the Guardian in an exclusive interview today, dismissing the fraud case against him as “bullshit” and “a joke”, and claiming that his legal rights have been infringed.
“I’m sending everyone a message. I’m saying this is war,” Lord Black says, explaining his decision to publish a 1,100-page biography of Richard Nixon in the midst of a trial that could see him sentenced to up to 101 years in prison. He has been “attacked in a violent manner [by] the US government” he says.
“There’s a promise in the fifth amendment of no seizure of property without proper compensation. It’s an outrage. Due process is guaranteed. It’s not happening,” says the former owner of the Telegraph and the Spectator, who stands accused, with three co-defendants, of siphoning off $60m (£30m) of his shareholders’ money through phoney non-competition agreements, and enjoying lavish parties and private jet-travel on company expenses.
Lord Black insists the extravagant lifestyle attributed to him in Tom Bower’s biography of himself and his wife, Barbara Amiel, is “a complete myth”. “My judgment isn’t ‘The game is won, I’m on an inexorable march to victory’,” he adds. “This still has its scary moments. But I see the trend. My strategy is working.”
Lord Black says he was genuinely shocked at how “under-appreciated” he was by journalists at the Telegraph. Under the new owners, the Barclay brothers, the newspaper has lost all of its influence and standing, he says.
In Chicago, there has been mounting speculation that Lord Black may take the stand in his own defence following two weeks of damaging testimony by his former righthand man, David Radler. Radler has admitted fraud and has been giving evidence against his boss under a plea agreement. He says the fallen media mogul came up with the idea of looting non-compete payments from Hollinger during a 1998 telephone call – and that Lord Black provided the impetus throughout the fraudulent scheme.
In rancorous exchanges, defence lawyers have spent days pummelling away at Radler’s credibility. Radler has vigorously fended off criticism – so aggressively that, at several points, the judge ordered him to restrain himself and stop arguing with his questioners. Radler has insisted: “I pled guilty because I am guilty. That’s it.”
‘This still has its scary moments. But I see the trend. My strategy is working’ Conrad Black