Black convicted of fraud, obstructing justice

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TORONTO -- Fallen Canadian media baron Conrad Black is facing hard time after being convicted Friday on mail fraud and obstruction of justice charges stemming from past business deals.

Toronto-based Black, who also is a British noble, faces up to 35 years in a U.S. prison after a Chicago federal jury convicted him and three former business associates for pocketing about $60 million in "noncompete" payments diverted from shareholders of Hollinger International, the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspaper titles, which they formerly ran.

Black was found guilty on three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice, which alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars.

The federal jury found Black not guilty on nine other counts, including racketeering.

The three other Hollinger International executives -- John Boultbee, Peter Atkinson, and Chicago-based attorney Mark Kipnis -- also were found guilty of wire fraud and similarly face jail time.

Friday's convictions stemmed from the sale of Hollinger International newspapers as far back as 1988, and includes the July 2000 sale of 13 major Canadian newspapers to Canadian broadcaster CanWest Global Communications for CAN$3.2 billion ($3.04 billion).

In 2003, U.S. authorities began investigating the "noncompete" fees that Black and his associates pocketed when selling off newspaper titles, leading to criminal charges.

The prosecution's star witness during the 13-week trial was Vancouver-based David Radler, Black's longtime lieutenant, who elected to plead guilty and give evidence against his business partner in return for a shorter jail term.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated Black and his former business associates for their role in the downfall of Hollinger International but never charged them.
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