Former newspaper tycoon Conrad Black pleaded not guilty Friday to new charges of racketeering, obstruction of justice, money laundering and wire fraud in the alleged plundering of $80 million (Ђ67 million) from Hollinger International Inc. The new charges against Black, 61, came two weeks after he pleaded not guilty to charges related to the alleged defrauding scheme involving the newspaper empire he once controlled.
Black's former chief financial adviser, John Boultbee, also pleaded not guilty on Friday to one new count of wire fraud. He already had been charged with eight counts of fraud. The new charges were brought in an indictment returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Chicago. Charges against co-defendants Peter Atkinson, Mark Kipnis and the Ravelston Corp. Ltd., the Canadian company that Black used to control Chicago-based Hollinger International, remained unchanged. All have pleaded not guilty. The former Hollinger executives are accused of cheating on taxes and looting more than $80 million from the company through a series of fraudulent payments linked to the sale of several hundred U.S. and Canadian publishing properties. The additional charges against Black bring the maximum penalties against him to 95 years in prison and a $7 million fine. Before the new charges, he faced a maximum of 40 years in prison and $2 million if convicted.
District Judge Amy St. Eve. on Friday set a trial date of March 5. Prosecutors allege that Black, whose holdings once included The Daily Telegraph of London and other major papers, misused company perks such as taking the corporate jet for a vacation in Bora Bora and throwing a lavish birthday party for his wife.
The new racketeering count alleges that Black oversaw a series of newspaper sales and other actions that enriched him and other top Hollinger executives. The new wire fraud and money laundering counts allege that Black illegally transferred $2.15 million in fraudulently obtained proceeds of newspaper transactions from Canada to a company bank account in Chicago in order to buy an apartment on Park Avenue in New York City.
Black was ousted from Hollinger by the board in late 2003 after an internal investigation. His longtime deputy and business partner, F. David Radler, pleaded guilty in September to taking part in a scheme to siphon off $32 million in proceeds from the sale of Hollinger newspapers in the United States and Canada. He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, reports the AP. N.U.