Fallen media baron Conrad Black is a liar and thief, a prosecutor said in opening statements of a fraud trial in which Black and
three associates are accused of pocketing US$60 million, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

"Bank robbers wear masks and use a gun," prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer told the jury.

"But these men wore suits … these four men committed their crimes by falsifying documents to make it look like normal business dealing. It was theft. It was fraud. It was a crime," he said.

Mr Cramer said the crime began when Black's vast media empire began selling off hundreds of smaller community newspapers in order to focus on its larger titles, such as Britain's prestigious The Daily Telegraph, The Jerusalem Post and the Chicago Sun-Times.

"These four decided they would take the proceeds from those sales and put them in their pocket," Mr Cramer said. "It's lies and it's simple. At the end it's as bold as it can be and nobody knows."

Prosecutors charge that Black and his associates diverted US$60 million from the sale of those papers by lying to an audit committee and telling them that the buyers requested "non-compete" payments be made to Black, his associates and the companies they controlled.

Click here to read the full report, posted on the AsiaMedia website.