- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CHICAGO (Bloomberg) — Former Hollinger International Inc. Chairman Conrad Black and three other former company executives rested their defense against federal fraud charges yesterday without testifying themselves. Closing arguments are set for Monday.

Prosecutors say the men stole $60 million from Hollinger, once the third-largest publisher of English-language newspapers, characterizing the money as payment not to compete with former Hollinger papers. From 1998 to 2001 Hollinger sold $3 billion in mostly newspaper assets.

Mr. Black, 62, is on trial with former Hollinger Vice President Peter Atkinson, 60, former Chief Financial Officer John Boultbee, 63, and former General Counsel Mark Kipnis, 59.

“I decline to exercise my right to testify,” Mr. Black told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve yesterday. He declined to comment after leaving the courtroom.

The former Hollinger executives are charged with mail, wire and tax fraud. Mr. Black, who could get more than 20 years in prison, is also charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice.

The final defense witness, Salt Lake City accountant and fraud examiner Alan V. Funk, told jurors yesterday that a company’s top managers are in the best position to commit fraud because they are the most able to override internal and external auditing and controls.

“Those are the best frauds,” Mr. Funk told prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer during cross-examination testing his court-certified expertise. Mr. Funk yesterday said he had not seen significant evidence of fraud in the material Hollinger disclosed to its outside auditor.

Mr. Funk, called to the stand to testify by Kipnis attorney Michael Schwarz, said he charges $425 an hour and has billed nearly $800,000 for work done by his firm in connection with the Black trial.

The defense took eight days to present its case.

Hollinger’s publications included the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, Canada’s National Post and Britain’s Daily Telegraph. It’s now called Sun-Times Media Group Inc., based in Chicago.