Friday, August 19, 2005

The leopard of Chicago

It's surely worthy of note in Ireland that a man with the classic Norman-Irish name of Patrick Fitzgerald has become the nemesis of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy. It's fairly well known that Fitzgerald, the US Department of Justice Attorney for Northern Illinois, has been investigating the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the media by senior White House officials, an investigation that has proven way more persistent and debilitating than the White House expected.

But he still has his day job, prosecuting breaches of federal law in Chicago, which puts him at the lead in the case against the former leader of the Commonwealth Branch of the VRC, Conrad Black. We used to post extensively about Black's travails, such as here. While his Telegraph papers seem to have made a smooth transition within the VRC from Black to the Barclay brothers, the legal fallout drags on, and Thursday brought some indictments connected with Black's primary US assets in Chicago:

[WSJ, subs. req'd] Two former executives of Hollinger International Inc. were charged with diverting more than $32 million from the Chicago newspaper publisher through a series of complex transactions.

F. David Radler, Hollinger International's former president and chief operating officer, and Mark S. Kipnis, the company's former vice president, corporate counsel, each face seven counts on federal fraud charges. A U.S. federal grand jury in Chicago issued the indictment, which also names Ravelston Corp., a closely held Canadian holding company controlled by former Hollinger International Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Conrad Black and Mr. Radler.

And while Black is not named in the indictment, that may actually be bad news for him, because it sounds like Radler intends to plea bargain and perhaps sell out Black:

Mr. Fitzgerald, however, announced that Mr. Radler is "cooperating with the investigation and expects to enter a plea of guilty at a later date." He declined to say whether the government is likely to bring charges against Lord Black.

The WSJ story helpfully points out that Fitz is the hardest working man in law enforcement:

Mr. Fitzgerald also is special prosecutor in the investigation of the leak of a Central Intelligence Agency agent's identity to the media.

One other thing. We noted a while back that Lady Black, aka Barbara Amiel, seemed to have relocated to London, possibly with a view to avoiding the long arm of the US law, an issue that now looks very pertinent with Mr Fitzgerald on the hunt.

Which raises an interesting hypothetical: suppose that the US does indict the Blacks and they move to London. Would the US seek to extradite them under post 9/11 anti-terrorism legislation? And if you think that's far-fetched, that's exactly the threat hanging over the "NatWest Three" (not to be confused with the Colombia Three), facing extradition from Britain under anti-terrorism laws in connection with the Enron collapse. Would it take a similar fate befalling VRC veterans like the Blacks for the lunacy of this to become an issue in the US?

[Partial disclosure: we are related to one of the NatWest Three.]

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