May 14, 2007 / 6:19 PM / 12 years ago

Conrad Black's defence suggests accuser a liar

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Conrad Black’s lawyer on Monday accused the star prosecution witness against the former media baron of being a habitual liar out to save himself.

Conrad Black (R) enters the Dirksen Federal Court Building for his fraud and racketeering trial with his daughter Alana Black (M) , son James Black and wife Barbara Amiel Black (L) in Chicago, Illinois, May 14, 2007. Black, who once presided over one of the world's largest media empires, goes to court to determine if he and his associates stole millions of dollars as his conglomerate crumbled. REUTERS/Stephen J. Carrera

As David Radler, Black’s long-time business partner turned government informant, took the stand for a fifth day, defence attorney Edward Greenspan continued the assault on his veracity, this time using testimony Radler gave just last week in the criminal fraud trial.

Radler, who has pleaded guilty in the case and faces jail time, testified last Thursday that he had reviewed statements he made to a special committee that had investigated Hollinger International, the media giant he and Black built over 30 years.

But on Monday Radler said the “review” was actually a back-and-forth with prosecutors who were questioning him in preparation for the trial. He said he must have misunderstood Greenspan’s question last week about what he had reviewed.

“I had no access to those statements,” Radler said.

“I can only give you the facts. I have never seen my statements before the special committee” that investigated Hollinger, he told Greenspan.

“Or it’s apparent that you’re just a liar,” Greenspan shot back. “It’s easy for you to lie, is it not?”

“I don’t believe I have to answer that question,” Radler protested.

The 62-year-old Black, a Canadian-born member of Britain’s House of Lords, is charged with racketeering, fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. If convicted, he faces up to 101 years in prison, millions in fines and $92 million (46.5 million pounds) in forfeitures.

Three co-defendants face lesser charges but all four men together stand accused of stealing $60 million from Hollinger International, now known as the Sun-Times Media Group.

In testifying for the prosecution, Radler has described how money flowed from the sale of newspapers and other properties he and Black sold off. That included millions of dollars in non-compete payments the government says Black and the others pocketed instead of sending the funds to Hollinger International for the benefit of its shareholders.

Non-compete payments are designed to prevent a seller from re-entering the same market. But Black and the others are accused of using part of the numerous payments as illegal tax-free bonuses for themselves.

HAMMERING AWAY

Greenspan has hammered away at Radler, trying to give the jury a message that his word can’t be trusted.

Radler protested to Greenspan that he had been “telling the truth since I walked in this door and to the grand jury.”

Greenspan then began to depict him as a man out to save himself, saying that his plea agreement would set him free after only six months in jail, perhaps spent at a prison with a “golf course therapy program” near his home in Vancouver.

“You know that anyone who gets three years or less for a nonviolent crime is out in six months?” Greenspan asked.

“I did not know that ...” Radler replied.

“Fine, I’ll send you a bill,” Greenspan quipped.

“I take it you know you’ve gotten the best deal in a lifetime of deals?” Greenspan continued.

“I don’t believe going to prison ... is a ‘great deal’,” Radler replied angrily. “I’m facing a 29-month jail sentence.”

Greenspan, sounding incredulous, said he didn’t know how Radler could expect the jury to believe he had not explored the ramifications of “this unbelievably sweetheart deal.”

“No crime was committed by anyone but you,” Greenspan said.

“By me,” Radler replied, sounding as if he were mocking Greenspan’s question.

Radler has pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in an agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a 29-month jail sentence and testimony against Black and the others. He has also paid a $7 million fine related to the case.

Prosecutors have depicted Radler and Black as close associates in and out of business.

The trial is in its ninth week.

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