CHICAGO: Although not ousting The Fantasticks from its pedestal as America's longest-running show (17,162 off-Broadway performances), the Lord Conrad Black epic, now in its tenth week, is still playing to packed audiences at a Chicago courthouse.

Although His Lordship remains the unchallenged star of the show, Black's former number two at Hollinger International [H-Intl], F David Radler has been center-stage for the past two weeks - albeit occasionally uncertain of his lines.

Here's a resumé of the plot to date for Kurdistani playgoers and others unfamiliar with the tale.

Star government witness Radler has been grilled for nearly two weeks by lawyers picking over the bones of a deal in 2000 in which most of the Canadian newspapers owned by Black's media company, H-Intl, were sold to CanWest Global Communications for C$3.2 billion ($2.92bn; €2.16bn; £1.48bn).

Lawyer Benito Romano (defending Black's former top corporate attorney and co-accused Peter Atkinson) fed Radler his first cue: "Is it fair to say Peter worked around the clock on this transaction?"

Radler: "As far as I know, yes."

Romano told the court that as the deal neared closure, Radler forwarded to Atkinson (and co-defendant Jack Boultbee) accountant's advice that non-compete payments were free of tax in Canada.

Radler: "I sent information, that's all."

Romano: "You sent him [Atkinson] the fax because you thought that he had a personal interest, did you not? You had discussed giving a portion of the non-compete to Peter by that time?"

Radler: "I have to look at the dates ... I don't know what day I had the discussion with him."

Enter Ron Safer, lawyer for co-accused, former H-Intl corporate counsel Mark Kipnis. Safer suggested to Radler that the $100,000 bonus Kipnis received was for saving Hollinger mucho moolah.

"His bonus was a fraction of the money he saved the company?"

Radler: "Yes."

Safer: "The government asked you repeatedly about this bonus and each time you told them it had nothing to do with non-compete payments and had only to do with Mark's hard work?"

Radler: "Yes."

The foregoing dialog was designed to prove that Kipnis - who is not even accused of receiving illicit 'non-compete' payments - was innocent of a charge levelled at the other defendants.

Safer asked Radler how he felt when in early 2001 Hollinger was forced to disclose the non-compete payments in its financial statements to regulators and shareholders.

Safer: "Did you panic? You understood then, the jig was up?"

Radler: "Sir, they signed them [the financial statements], didn't they?"

Safer (triumphantly): "You didn't panic, sir, because you knew these [payments] had been presented to the audit committee and they had approved them in principle, isn't that right?"

Radler (defiantly): "No, sir, that's your version."

Despite a lackluster script and a number of less than convincing performances, the show continues its run

Data sourced from additional content by WARC staff