I Stand Before the Court
The quest for justice continues.


Conrad Black

Your Honor, many years ago when I was a student and licensee in law in Quebec, I read a large number of cases from British and French courts, including the one in which the principle was enunciated by the eminent British jurist, Lord Denning, that “parties coming to court must be prepared to practise what they are asking the court to approve.” The prosecutors have never ceased in this case to advocate respect for the law, and to accuse me of lacking it.

But since that is an unfounded complaint, the real source of their irritation must be that as chief defendant, I have led the destruction of most of their case, and have successfully protested my innocence of charges of which I have, in fact, been found not to have been guilty. I understand their disconcertion that of the 17 counts they originally threatened or actually launched against me, all were either not proceeded with, abandoned, rejected by the jurors, or vacated by a unanimous Supreme Court of the United States. But the problem is not my lawlessness, it is the weakness of their case. I have done nothing but uphold and respect the rule of law and the system of justice, in which my faith has never flagged.

This entire prosecution, and a number of civil suits as well, were based on the report of the Special Committee of the board of Hollinger International, directed by its counsel, Richard Breeden, and published in September 2004. That report accused me of having led a “$500-million corporate kleptocracy.” The non-competition payments almost entirely legitimized in this case were described as “thefts.” And the authors of the report promised to lead the company back to unheard-of levels of profitability. They did, but not in the direction indicated. I launched the largest libel suit in Canadian history against Breeden and the others responsible for writing and publishing this infamous report.

My libel suit, and several other lawsuits around this case, are being settled, including a sizable payment to me on the libel claim. This is the ultimate collapse of the Breeden Special Committee report, whatever other interpretation the defendants in the case may, consistent with their notions of accuracy throughout these proceedings, seek to place on it.

The authors of the report were not prepared to defend it where they would not have an immunity for perjury as most of the government witnesses did here. Nor were they prepared to defend their self-directed largesse of $300 million, as they drove the company into bankruptcy, taking down $2 billion of shareholder value with it. Over 80 percent of that value belonged to ordinary people throughout the U.S. and Canada, the type of people Mr. [Jeffrey] Cramer [the prosecutor] spoke about at the opening of the trial when he likened us to masked and violent bank robbers who stole depositors’ money at gunpoint, because we had supposedly rifled the shareholders’ family college funds. And Breeden’s original action of January 2004, containing the false charge that I had threatened the Special Committee, repeated just last month by the government in its presentence filings on May 27, has also been abandoned.

Mark Twain famously said that “a lie gets half way round the world before the truth gets its trousers on.” It is very late in this case, Your Honor, but the truth has almost caught up with the original allegations. I have at times expressed concern about the ethics of some of the prosecutors in this case, Your Honor, but never of the role of prosecutors, or of the necessity to convict criminals and protect society. I must emphasize that I consider that the prosecutors too are victims. If they had not believed Breeden’s lies, now effectively abandoned in the face of my libel suit, the U.S. attorney would surely not have launched such a fantastic assault on us.

And I can assure the assistant U.S. Attorney that I did not say on Canadian television last week that I was like the person checking his own expense account. I said that for the appellate panel that had been excoriated by Madame Justice Ginsburg on behalf of a unanimous Supreme Court, when assigned the task of assessing the gravity of its own errors, to resurrect these two counts after a gymnastic distortion, suppression, and fabrication of evidence, was like someone reviewing his own expense account.

Your Honor, these are, in any case, very threadbare counts. Is it really conceivable to you that if I were inexplicably seized with the ambition to embezzle $285,000 I would have it ratified by a committee and then, after what the minutes of the meeting described as “ extensive discussion,” by the whole board? I would have to have been mad.