Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

A somewhat surreal weekend in the ongoing dramedy surrounding Conrad Black. Saturday’s National Post announced the return of Black’s regular column, with the great man’s steely-eyed mug appearing on the cover, accompanied by the tag line “He’s Back.” Inside, in a sort of prologue to his column on the world economy, Black thanked his supporters and repeated his mantra concerning his “victory” over the United States government, the tragedy of his company’s demise and the enrichment of his enemies. He closed with the encouraging declaration that he “will write and publish the full account of this travesty in good time.” Then followed a scolding opinion piece suggesting that, on the whole, the global economy is living well beyond its means. In support of his thesis, Black writes, “When diamond-studded hand-bags are being sold for $273,000, metallic ladies’ trousers for $165,000, not conspicuously intelligent people are quickly making paper fortunes, and three quarters of Ferraris sold in Florida are repossessed by the dealers, it is time for caution. My late father, an astute investor, used to say that he couldn’t give financial advice but would say what he himself was doing. I am holding my fire and keeping a lot of dry powder at hand.”

This from the same guy who dropped a couple of million bucks on a diamond ring for “the little woman.”

Back in this solar system, Julie Ruder’s response to the defence’s request to have the verdict set aside reconfirms the contempt prosecutors feel for Black, who, even in the face of a conviction, continues to characterize the case against him as a travesty. In a brief dripping with sarcasm, Ruder writes, “Where were the secret, hushed conversations among the schemers, in a deserted warehouse? …Where were the damning memos between Black and Radler, confirming their plan to steal from the company? Where were the paper shredders and secret set of books, concealing that over $60 million in payments were made? Why would the general counsel of the company permit his secretary to open his mail if he were participating in a fraud scheme?

In essence, defendants argue that there has been a miscarriage of justice because their fraud scheme was not juicy enough to be the plot for a television show or movie. The government presented the evidence for what it was.”

Ruder’s rebarbative tone suggests the government is going to continue to go hard at Black in seeking a stiff penalty at sentencing (16 to 20). For Black’s part, if it wasn’t obvious before, it certainly is now: contrition isn’t part of the equation in seeking to lighten his sentencing load.

Meanwhile, Eddie Greenspan, the man still charged in part with keeping his client out of the hoosegow, finally wrote a letter to the editor of Maclean’s, taking Mark Steyn to task for reporting that the Eddies each sought a million extra bucks a day or two prior to summary arguments. You might remember that Eddie G. sent us a missive contesting Steyn’s claims within days of the article’s publication. A couple of months haven’t cooled Eddie’s ardour. He’s not quite as blunt as he was—the demand for payment has transformed from “downright lies” into “complete fiction”—but the issue remains the same. Somebody’s fibbing. Beyond that, Greenspan takes apart Steyn’s suggestion Eddie screwed up in not allowing Black to testify on his own behalf. He caps the argument by pointing out that “as a matter of U.S. law the court must be satisfied that every accused understands that he or she has a right to testify on their own behalf and that the accused is voluntarily waiving that right. Judge St. Eve asked those questions of Lord Black and received an affirmative answer that ultimately, the decision not to testify was his decision, ‘regardless of any advice he received.’” In short, Black made his own bed, etc., etc.

For all that, the contretemps pitting Eddie G. against Steyn-Maclean’s is among the great Canadian knife-in-the-back stories, on par with Eagleson-Orr, Bouchard-Mulroney and, of late, Ignatieff-Dion. Personally, I hit my knees every night praying for a lawsuit. But somehow I doubt it will happen. Any further airing of this matter would probably only serve to foul the nests of all concerned.

Living beyond our means: Source [National Post]

Prosecutors ask retrial request be denied for ex-Hollinger chief: Source [Chicago Tribune]

Prosecutors dismiss mistrial arguments: Source [Toronto Star]