- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) - The former second-in-command at the Hollinger International newspaper conglomerate took the witness stand yesterday to begin testimony that federal prosecutors hope clinches their racketeering and fraud case against media mogul Conrad Black.

F. David Radler, 64, who has pleaded guilty to fraud and is awaiting his prison sentence, is expected to be the government’s star witness in Mr. Black’s trial on charges of swindling Hollinger out of $84 million.

“I took money from Hollinger in a way that isn’t allowed,” he told the jury after settling into the witness box.

He said he met Mr. Black in 1969 and immediately wanted to go into partnership with him as co-owners of a small English-language newspaper in the French-speaking community of Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“I was impressed with Mr. Black’s knowledge and his ability and I thought that he would be a great partner to have,” Radler testified.

Lead prosecutor Eric H. Sussman led Radler in explaining his history with Mr. Black, a relationship that eventually would become one of the largest newspaper holding companies in the world: Hollinger International Inc.

Mr. Black would become chairman and Radler would become president and chief operating officer of the media empire.

Mr. Black, 62, is charged with swindling Hollinger International out of $84 million, mainly by selling hundreds of community newspaper companies in the United States and Canada and pocketing payments from the purchasers.

The payments were in exchange for promises from Mr. Black and fellow Hollinger executives not to re-occupy the circulation areas and compete with the new owners.

Such “non-compete” payments are common in the industry but federal prosecutors say that the money belonged to Hollinger International shareholders and that Mr. Black and other executives had no right to take it.

Mr. Black and co-defendants John Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis contend that they did nothing illegal.

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