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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Black is Found Guilty of Swindling

CHICAGO -- Former media mogul Conrad Black was convicted of swindling the far-flung Hollinger International newspaper empire he once ran out of millions of dollars, becoming the latest in a wave of disgraced corporate executives to face possible prison time for financial fraud.

Black, 62, who once renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the British House of Lords, was found guilty Friday by a federal jury of three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice for spiriting documents out of his Toronto office in defiance of a court order.

Black was acquitted of nine other counts ranging from tax fraud to the most serious charge -- racketeering. He was also acquitted of fleecing Hollinger shareholders through such perks as taking the corporate jet on a two-week vacation to the island of Bora Bora.

Judge Amy St. Eve set a Nov. 30 sentencing date, confiscated Black's passport and ordered him to remain in the Chicago area while she considers the government's request that she revoke his $21 million bond, partly secured by a seaside estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Three other former Hollinger executives, John Boultbee, 65; Peter Atkinson, 60; and Mark Kipnis, 59; were also convicted of fraud charges.

Hollinger International, based in Chicago, was at one time one of the world's largest publisher of community newspapers as well as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London and Israel's Jerusalem Post.

The three-month trial drew international media attention, heightened by the silver-haired British lord's posh lifestyle and sometimes haughty comments. When shareholders grumbled about the cost of the Bora Bora trip, he wrote a memo saying: "I'm not prepared to re-enact the French revolutionary renunciation of the rights of the nobility."

Prosecutors asked the judge to have Black jailed immediately, saying he could face 15 years to nearly 20 years in federal prison for the conviction. But defense attorneys said the actual sentence was likely to be much less.

In contrast to the $84 million in fraud prosecutors blamed on Black when he was indicted two years ago, the jurors found him guilty of a fraction of that -- defense attorneys put the amount at $3.5 million.

Still, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the government was "gratified" by the verdict.

"We think the verdict vindicates the serious public interest in making sure that when insiders in a corporation deal with money entrusted to them by the shareholders, that they not engage in self-dealing, that they not break the law to benefit themselves instead of the shareholders," Fitzgerald said.

Defense attorney Edward Genson argued that Black had "wanted his day in court and now wants his day on appeal" and would not run away.

"He has had his day in court," countered prosecutor Eric Sussman, "and now the question is whether he will have his day of sentencing."

Black was stony faced as he handed over the passport. When St. Eve asked whether he would appear for sentencing, he said, "Absolutely."

Black avoided reporters' questions as he left the courthouse Friday afternoon. Edward Greenspan, Black's Canadian defense attorney, told reporters they would appeal.