CHICAGO: As federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer rose to his feet in Chicago's federal courthouse to open the prosecution case against fallen newspaper tycoon Lord Conrad Black, one notable player in the saga was nowhere to be seen.

Conspicuous by his absence was the Nemesis whose relentless probing triggered the peer's downfall - Christopher H Browne (pictured above), managing director of New York investment firm Tweedy Browne and a major shareholder in Black's former fiefdom, Hollinger International.

Meantime, prosecutor Cramer opened in barnstorming style, telling the jury it was "sitting in a room with four men who stole $60 million (€45.14m; £30.64m), four men who believed their five- and six-figure salaries were not enough".

Pausing for dramatic emphasis, he continued: "It was theft, it was fraud, it was crime."

Black, 62, stands arraigned alongside three former Hollinger colleagues: Peter Atkinson (general counsel), John Boultbee (cfo) and Mark Kipnis (corporate counsel and secretary).

All four are charged with ...

  • Fraudulently receiving non-compete fees from the sale of Hollinger International assets.

  • Depriving the company of their honest services.

  • Repeatedly benefiting themselves at the expense of the company and its public shareholders through the abuse of company perks.
Declared Black's lawyer, the renowned Canadian advocate Edward Genson: "My client is not guilty of each and every charge in this indictment."

Although Black's defense team are no slouches, they face a formidable opponent in lead prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who successfully led the federal perjury case against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to US vice-president Dick Cheney.

A 'guilty' verdict could see prison terms exceeding 100 years imposed on the British peer. He also faces millions of dollars in fines and seized assets.

The trial continues.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff