19 May 2009

US court to hear former media baron's appeal

6:39 pm on 19 May 2009

The United States Supreme Court is to consider former tycoon Conrad Black's appeal against his fraud conviction.

Black, a Canadian-born member of Britain's House of Lords, was jailed for six-and-a-half years for fraud and obstruction of justice in 2007.

He argues that he did not commit fraud because he did no harm to newspaper company Hollinger International.

Black once ran the fouth largest newspaper chain in the world, which included controlling interest in the Fairfax media empire.

Judges agreed to review a ruling by a US appeals court in Chicago that upheld the conviction in 2007 of Black and former Hollinger senior executives Peter Atkinson, John Boultbee and Mark Kipnis.

Black and the others had been accused of swindling the company - once the world's third-largest publisher of English language newspapers - out of $US6.1 million by giving themselves illegal bonuses.

Black, who was Hollinger's former chairman and chief executive, Boultbee, the one-time executive vice-president and chief financial officer, and Kipnis, the former corporate counsel and secretary, appealed to the Supreme Court.

Their lawyers sought to overturn their fraud convictions on the grounds that the trial judge had given improper instructions to the jury that found them guilty. The US Justice Department opposed the appeal.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case and issue a ruling during its upcoming term that begins in October.