CHICAGO — An arrest warrant has been issued for former press baron Conrad Black following a federal fraud indictment charging that he and three other executives swindled the Hollinger International media empire he once controlled out of millions of dollars.

Black, 61, a former Canadian citizen who is a member of the British House of Lords, was also charged Thursday with siphoning off thousands of corporate dollars to pay for a vacation in Bora Bora, a surprise birthday party for his wife and apartments on Park Avenue in New York.

“For years, Conrad Black lived large on millions of shareholder dollars,” U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald told reporters in unveiling the charges at a news conference. “A federal grand jury has returned an indictment that says he did so by means of criminal fraud.”

Fitzgerald said that if Black — who has homes in Toronto, London and Palm Springs, Calif. — fails to turn himself in, the government will start extradition proceedings to bring him to Chicago.

Hollinger International Inc. owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other publications in the United States and Canada and formerly controlled the Daily Telegraph of London and the Jerusalem Post.

Black’s attorney, Edward Greenspan, issued a statement Thursday night saying that Black is confident that he will be acquitted “if given a full and fair opportunity to defend himself.”

“Conrad Black asserts his innocence without qualification with respect to each and every one of the charges set forth in the indictment,” Greenspan said. “It will be shown that he has, at all times, acted within the law.”

Molly Morse, a spokeswoman for Hollinger International, said the company had no comment on Thursday’s indictments. Hollinger Inc., the Toronto-based holding company that has voting control over Hollinger International, also declined comment.

According to the indictment, Hollinger’s $2.1 billion sale of several hundred U.S. and Canadian publishing properties was awash in fraud.

Millions of dollars were paid by the buyers to Black and his co-defendants through what was called noncompete agreements but really were just ways of skimming cash, prosecutors said.

Newspaper companies often get payments for agreeing not to compete in the same circulation area after they sell their papers, prosecutors said. But they said that in normal sales such payments ordinarily go to the shareholders, not to individual executives of the company.

Former Sun-Times publisher David Radler pleaded guilty plea in September to charges of taking part in a scheme to siphon off $32 million in proceeds from the sale of newspaper properties in the United States and Canada through bogus contracts with purchasers.

Radler agreed to cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation.

According to the indictment Black used a similar bogus agreement to siphon $51.8 million out of Hollinger International’s multi-billion-dollar sale of assets in 2000 to CanWestGlobal Communications Corp.

Black was also charged with using Hollinger International funds to bankroll a lifestyle that included Park Avenue apartments in New York and a vacation in Bora Bora in French Polynesia.

The indictment said Black and his wife used a corporate jet to fly to Bora Bora in July 2001 and remained there for a week. When company auditors asked him to reimburse them for the travel, he told them “no such outcome is acceptable,” the indictment said.

According to the indictment, he used $42,000 in Hollinger International funds to pay for a $62,000 surprise birthday party for his wife in December 2000 at a New York restaurant. The tab included 80 dinners at $195 each and $13,935 for champagne and other wine.

The indictment said another defendant, John A. “Jack” Boultbee, 62, of Toronto swindled Hollinger International out of millions of dollars by having the company pay for the renovation of one Park Avenue apartment for Black’s servants and buying another Park Avenue apartment from the company at far below the fair price.

Also charged in the indictment were Peter Y. Atkinson, 58, a Canadian attorney, and Mark S. Kipnis, 58, of suburban Northbrook, who served as secretary to Hollinger International’s board of directors when the board was approving some of the agreements.

Kipnis was charged with fraud in August. He has pleaded innocent and was reindicted Thursday. His lawyer Ronald Safer, did not return calls seeking comment.

Atkinson’s attorney, Benito Romano, declined to comment, saying he hadn’t seen the indictment. It was unclear who represents Boultbee.

Also charged was the Ravelston Corp. Ltd, a Canadian company that Black used to gain control of Hollinger International. It held 30 percent of the shares but 70 percent of the voting rights on the International board.

Black is charged in eight counts of the indictment, each of which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. But any sentence would more likely be governed by sentencing guidelines that would be unlikely to call for a term as long as four decades.

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