Black’s partner: I pleaded guilty because I am

Last updated at 10:18 18 May 2007

There was a sting at the end of David Radler’s seven days of testimony in Conrad Black’s

fraud trial.

After coping with innumerable attempts by defence lawyers to, in Radler’s words, "play games" with his testimony, he returned to his own script.

"I pleaded guilty," he told the jury, "because I am guilty and that’s it." He added: "I made a

decision to be totally truthful." His declaration came at the climax of a 30-minute

resurrection of the case against Black.

To the surprise of defence lawyers, Eric Sussman, the prosecutor, decided to re-examine

Radler, Black’s former partner, about the allegations that Black received $60 million in phoney non-compete payments during the sale of his company’s newspapers between 1998 and 2001.

Non-compete agreements are sometimes included in contracts to prevent the seller competing

with the new owners. Normally that money belongs to the corporation, not to individual executives.

Radler claims that, at Conrad Black’s initiative, they inserted their names into phoney non-compete payments to skim millions of dollars from Hollinger International, Black’s former media company. Black denies the charges.

On the screen, in front of the jury, was a letter sent by Black to Radler in July 2002. Black wrote: "The door is now closed on the splendid conveyance of the non-compete agreements from which you and I profited so

well (and deservedly)."

Sussman’s intention was to prove that Black had received millions of dollars in non-compete payments without question or protest.

Radler was asked what benefit Hollinger and its shareholders had received from the non-compete payments which Black and Radler took after eight sales of Hollinger newspapers. "None," repeated Radler. "There was no value to Hollinger or its


Radler was also asked: "Did Conrad Black question you about his receipt of $2.6 million

from the sale of APC?", referring to a non-compete agreement which Black and Radler

signed with APC, a subsidiary of Hollinger itself. "There was no question," replied Radler.

"Did the buyers of the newspapers ever say that they wanted non-compete agreements with Hollinger or individuals?" asked Sussman. "To

the best of my knowledge, never," replied Radler. Sussman asked whether Black had said

anything when he later received a further $2.4 million from another sale. "There was no

question," replied Radler.

During that testimony, Lord and Lady Black appeared unamused. Their good humour at

the beginning of the morning, during the continuation of a bruising cross-examination of

Radler, had disappeared.

Radler left the court damaged but not destroyed, bequeathing the tantalising question whether

Black will subject himself to the same devastating cross-examination.

The case continues.

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