CHICAGO: The fraud and racketeering trial of Lord Conrad Black has heard from a defense witness that the fallen media baron was right to use company money to throw a lavish party for his wife.

Journalist John O'Sullivan, once an adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, told the court that the $62,000 (€47k, £31k) celebration for Barbara Amiel's 60th birthday was "a business event masquerading as a social occasion", and that Black was justified in using $40k of Hollinger International cash to pay for it.

O'Sullivan testified that many of the guests at New York's exclusive La Grenouille restaurant were business contacts rather than friends, and that the party's primary purpose was "social networking".

The prosecution, however, contended that O'Sullivan owed Black "a debt of gratitude" for getting him installed to his editor-in-chief post and making him an adviser to a Canuck newspaper.

Black and three co-defendants are accused of pocketing $60 million (€44m; £30.1m) that should have gone to shareholders of publisher H-Intl. They all deny any wrongdoing.

The trial is now in its final days.

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