OTTAWA, April 18 – The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Wednesday that former newspaper mogul Conrad Black is entitled to pursue libel suits in Ontario against the authors of a report that said he ran his U.S.-based media company, Hollinger International Inc, like a “corporate kleptocracy.”
Black is currently serving a prison sentence in Florida for fraud and obstruction of justice and expects to be released next month.
He has sought more than C$2.3 billion ($2.3 billion) in damages in his libel suits. The defendants are Richard Breeden, a former head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, who spearheaded a 2004 Hollinger committee report on Black’s practices, along with three committee members and other former Hollinger directors.
The report said Black, a former Canadian citizen, looted publisher Hollinger International of hundreds of millions of dollars. Black denies the charge.
Hollinger used to own Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and many other papers.
It is possible, however, that the issue might be moot in light of a reported settlement covering the libel suits and other court actions in the United States, that was reached in June 2011, three months after the Supreme Court of Canada heard the case. No money has yet been exchanged as certain elements require court approval.
“We have an enforceable agreement which will not be affected by the Supreme Court decision, one way or another,” Black spokesman Adam Daifallah told Reuters on Monday ahead of the decision.
The defendants say their comments were justified, and they were doing what was required under U.S. securities law.
The Supreme Court dismissed arguments by the defendants that Black was a “libel tourist” who shopped for the easiest jurisdiction to win his case.
Black’s lawyers argued his reputation was more tied to Ontario than anywhere else, even though Black had given up Canadian citizenship in order to enter the British House of Lords.
The name of the case is Richard C. Breeden et al. v. Conrad Black et al. (Ont.) (33900).