Conrad Black Might Be In the Toilet -- But At Least It Cost $12,000

By: E&P Staff Donald Trump was a no-show, but jurors at Conrad Black's racketeering trial today heard about the media mogul's lavish Park Avenue apartment -- which featured a $12,000 commode.

Black lived in the apartment owned by the Hollinger International newspaper group rent free when he was the company's CEO.

Defense attorneys questioned former federal tax agent Lee Williams, who said his investigation showed that Black had plunged more than $4.5 million into refurbishing the luxury co-op apartment. That's double the amount prosecutors say can be proven.

When shareholders grumbled about paying his rent, Black bought the apartment for three million dollars -- the amount Hollinger paid for it. But prosecutors say Black scammed the company because the apartment was worth much more. Black's attorneys contend he's done nothing wrong.

A new poll, meanwhile, shows most Canadians think the deposed newspaper magnate is getting a fair shake in his federal fraud and racketeering trial in Chicago -- and by overwhelming numbers they won't shed a tear if he's convicted.

The poll comes as Donald Trump was a no-show at the trial Monday. Black's lawyers have not denied persistent reports that the celebrity real estate developer will testify in Black's defense about a lavish surprise birthday party for Barbara Amiel Black that was largely expensed to Hollinger International, the newspaper publishing company now known as Sun-Times Media Group.

Trump is expected to testify there was a business justification for the party for Black's wife. Trump later reached an agreement with Hollinger to buy the Chicago Sun-Times building, which is on a downtown site along the Chicago River that Trump is building into a 92-story hotel and condominium tower.

The Canadian TV network CTV said Monday that Trump would appear on Tuesday. Monday was the start of the 11th week in the trial of Black, who is accused of fraud, racketeering, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion in connection with the alleged misappropriation of some $60 million in non-compete fees paid during the sell-off of many of Hollinger's community newspapers. Also accused are former Hollinger executives Jack Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis.

The Angus Reid global Monitor poll found just 10% of respondents believed Black was unfairly targeted by U.S. prosecutors because he is "not American." Another 53% disagreed with the statement, with the rest undecided.

Asked whether they think Black will get a far trial, 42% agreed, with just 17% disagreeing.

The clearest margin came when the poll asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement: "I would feel sorry for Conrad Black if he is convicted."

Only 9% agreed -- and 62% disagreed.


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