LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – Canada’s National Post reports that a Toronto lawyer claims she was “pressed” to say that a pair of Hollinger International executives inserted themselves into a business deal so they would receive tax-free bonuses, which are at the centre of criminal charges laid against Conrad Black and a trio of his former colleagues.
Testifying at the media baron’s fraud trial, Beth DeMerchant said she was cornered by the lawyer for a special committee probing the Chicago newspaper publisher’s business dealings in 2003.
The committee, headed by former U.S. Securities and Exchange chairman Richard Breeden, accused Lord Black and his colleagues — Peter Atkinson, Jack Boultbee and Mark Kipnis — of running a “corporate kleptocracy.”
Mr. Breeden once remarked that people who finance goldplated lifestyles with the profits of white-collar crime should be left “naked, homeless and without wheels.”
“I was pressed to say Jack and Peter added themselves,” Ms. DeMerchant, a former partner at Torys LLP, said in video testimony recorded earlier this year. “I said I didn’t know [how they got in there].”
The revelation came under cross-examination after prosecutors showed the jury a fax from Mr. Atkinson to Lord Black, saying he and Mr. Boultbee should each get paid a $2-million noncompete fee when CanWest Global Communications bought Hollinger’s Canadian newspapers for $3.5-billion in 2000.
“Jack and I suggest $2-million for each of us,” read the fax from seven years ago.
Mr. Atkinson, Hollinger’s former counsel, also said colleague David Radler “consistently suggested” that he and Lord Black each get $19-million to stay out of the Canadian market after selling titles that included the Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and a half interest in the National Post.