Lord Black's Accountant: Strong on Numbers, Weak on Geography

09 April 2007

CHICAGO: Comedy time Thursday in a Chicago courtroom as the trial of former international media magnate Lord Conrad Black ended its third week.

On the stand was Hollinger International's former financial controller, Fred Creasey, questioned by the prosecution over His Lordship's use of a corporate jet for alleged non-business purposes - among which was a C$536,000 (US$465,641; €348,013; £236,907) holiday to Bora Bora in the French Polynesian Islands.

In response to questioning by prosecuting counsel Julie Ruder, Creasey admitted: "Bora Bora did not fit my allocation methodology. It was outside any areas I was allocating flights to."

With the enthusiasm of a forensic truffle-hound, Ruder continued to probe: "Where is Bora Bora?"

Creasey appeared unsure: "Er ... in the South Pacific somewhere I think," he replied, triggering laughter in the courtroom.

Her teeth now firmly sunk into the succulent prize, the prosecutor refused to let go.

Ruder: "Did Hollinger International have any business operations in Bora Bora?"

Creasey: "No."

Ruder: "Are you aware of any business purpose in going to Bora Bora?"

Creasey: "No."

In response to further questioning, it emerged that the Bora Bora jaunt also included an overnight stop in Seattle to visit the opera.

While on this (and many other flights) His Lordship was accompanied by a retinue that included his wife Barbara Amiel-Black and his co-director, the former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

The prosecution alleges that the Bora Bora jaunt was just one of a series of expenses abuse committed by Black - and a key plank of the federal charge that Black and his co-accused plundered $60m from Hollinger International shareholders.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff