Trial of Lord Black expected to last three months

The trial of Lord Black, due to commence in Chicago in less than two weeks, is predicted to last as long as three months.

During the trial, to avoid the hassle (and photographers) waiting for him at the Canadian-US border, he plans to spend most of the weekends at his holiday home in Palm Beach. Recently, because his name is listed with the US Immigration Service and flagged on the agency's computers, crossing the border has often taken several hours.

In court – along with several associates and former executives of Hollinger International – he will have to defend himself against charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering. He faces the possibility – if found guilty – of life in prison.

Over the past two years, most of it spent in his native Canada, he has been vilified and castigated and had been under virtual house arrest. To travel anywhere outside Canada or the US he has had to get permission from the court in Chicago which will be hearing the case.

When anyone will listen he is not averse to discussing the trial. He insists he wants his day in court. In an interview published in the Toronto Globe and Mail this week he said he wants to have his say and argue the injustice and what he calls the absurdity of the charges.

Already he is talking about revenge. If he is cleared of the charges – and he insists he will almost certainly be found not guilty – he plans to sue everyone who has defamed him in the past few years. He is planning what he describes as an "international spray" of libel suits and will be demanding what he says millions and millions of dollars in damages. Already he has filed a libel suit against author Tom Bower for his book entitled Conrad and Lady Black, Dancing on The Edge, and from his publisher is seeking $11 million in damages.

In his interview with the Globe and Mail he claimed he receives e-mails every day from people who support him – and Bower's claim that he is being ostracized by his former friends is completely untrue. He cites the fact that he and his wife have in fact been invited to a party which Elton John is throwing soon.

The trial when it gets under way is expected to receive international attention. The prosecution is being led by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who in the past has taken on a long list of mobsters, politicians and even terrorists. His most recent newsworthy case involved the prosecution of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former aide to US Vice President Dick Cheney.

Among the witnesses expected to be called is former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, plus a roster of former US diplomats, politicians and businessmen – most of them former Hollinger directors. The other defendants include John Boultbee, former chief financial officer of Hollinger International, Peter Atkinson, a former vice-president of Hollinger and Mark Kipnis, also a former v-p and the only American on trial. Most face fewer charges than Lord Black.

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