Lord Black cocks a snook at Canadian 'kleptocracy' probe

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The Independent Online

Lord Black of Crossharbour, who has been accused of looting millions of dollars from the publisher Hollinger International, is refusing to co-operate with a Canadian investigation into his activities.

Lord Black of Crossharbour, who has been accused of looting millions of dollars from the publisher Hollinger International, is refusing to co-operate with a Canadian investigation into his activities.

Lord Black's intransigence is due to concerns that anything he says could be used against him in separate US criminal proceedings, his lawyer told a Canadian court last week.

The decision has put Lord Black on a collision course with Ernst & Young, appointed as the official investigator in Canada into the management of Hollinger's Toronto-based parent company, Hollinger Inc.

Peter Griffin, Ernst & Young's lawyer, told Ontario's Superior Court that because of Lord Black's refusal to give a sworn statement, the investigation would take at least four more months and would be more expensive than anticipated.

Ernst & Young would try to compel Lord Black to give evidence by asking the court's judge, Colin Campbell, to force him to co-operate at a hearing in February, Mr Griffin said.

The Canadian probe is one of several being carried out on behalf of Hollinger Inc shareholders in the US and Canada who allege that Lord Black ran the company to line his own pockets and those of his friends.

Lord Black has denied all wrongdoing and has also refused to respond to questions from lawyers for the US Securities and Exchange Commission, citing the US constitution's fifth amendment, which protects people from being forced to incriminate themselves.

A report commissioned by Hollinger International and published in August accused the company's former head of "corporate kleptocracy", siphoning US$400m (£210m) for himself and his friends from Hollinger International.

Lord Black was forced to step down as chairman and chief executive of Hollinger International in November 2003 amid allegations that he and his associates had received unauthorised payments. He resigned from Hollinger Inc's board in November 2004.

Ernst & Young was appointed on 27 October by the Ontario court to investigate 11,000 transactions connected to Lord Black.

Investigators also want to interview Jack Boultbee, Hollinger Inc's former vice-president, and David Radler, who used to be the company's deputy chairman. So far, they have not agreed to account for their actions.

In a report issued to the court, Ernst & Young said: "The Lack of access to these individuals combined with the condition and volume of records will cause the investigation to be more time-consuming and costly than it would otherwise be."

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