Prosecutors are facing a pivotal week in the fraud trial of Conrad Black, as they take on the task of persuading jurors the former media mogul and his co-defendants misled a number of high-profile directors, observers following the case say.
“What they have to (show) is intentionally misleading or tricking people, because that’s the essence of fraud,” says James Morton, a Toronto litigator and president of the Ontario Bar Association.
“You mislead people about the facts so they lose money. I’m not sure they’re gotten there yet, but that’s what (this) week is going to be about.”
The U.S. government has spent six weeks trying to persuade a Chicago jury that Black and former Hollinger executives Jack Boultbee and Peter Atkinson defrauded shareholders by pocketing non-compete payments during the sale of newspapers in Canada and the U.S.
Hollinger legal executive Mark Kipnis has been accused of arranging the payments.
Prosecutors allege Black and the others disguised bonuses as non-compete payments to avoid a tax hit.
Defence lawyers say the payments were approved by Hollinger’s board of directors and audit committee, and vetted by outside lawyers and auditors. This week, prosecutors will question past Illinois governor James Thompson, chair of the audit committee, as well as Marie-Josee Kravis, prominent economist and wife of Wall Street financier Henry Kravis.