Enron CEO Skilling is denied fresh trial

the fraud convictions of Jeffrey Skilling, chief executive of the collapsed energy giant Enron, were based on overwhelming evidence and "harmless" errors by the trial judge do not warrant giving him a new trial, an appeals court has decided.

The ruling ended hopes raised by a Supreme Court judgment on the case last year, and mean that the man at the centre of the notorious fraud from a decade ago will remain behind bars.

Skilling was found guilty in 2006 on 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and insider dealing and sentenced to more than 24 years in prison. His fight to clear his name had one breakthrough last June, when the Supreme Court ruled that a key part of the advice often given to juries in white-collar trials will no longer be admissible.

The jury at his trial was told that one of the possible reasons for convicting him would be if they believed he had deprived Enron of his "honest services" – but that concept will in future only be allowed in bribery trials.

Conrad Black, the disgraced British-Canadian media mogul who used to own The Daily Telegraph, is awaiting resentencing on his fraud convictions after the Supreme Court ruling led to the overturning of some of the guilty verdicts against him.

The US Appeals Court in New Orleans ruled that Skilling would have been found guilty even without the "honest services" portion of the judge's jury instructions.

Enron's profits were based on a string of elaborate accounting tricks hiding a mountain of debt. Skilling's sentence could yet be reduced from the original 292 months; an earlier appeals court ruling said the judge had misapplied sentencing guidelines.

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