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Not guilty verdicts in Nortel fraud trial

The former top brass at Nortel were found not guilty Monday of falsifying financial records as part of what the Crown alleged was a widespread, multimillion-dollar fraud at the fallen Canadian technology giant.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco ruled the Crown did not meet the burden of proof and dismissed charges against ex-CEO Frank Dunn, ex-CFO Douglas Beatty and ex-controller Michael Gollogly.

The three had pleaded not guilty of manipulating the balance sheets at Nortel Networks Corp., between 2002 to 2003.

"I am not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Frank A. Dunn, Douglas C. Beatty and Michael J. Gollogly deliberately misrepresented the financial results of Nortel Networks Corporation," Justice Marrocco said in his ruling.

"Therefore, I find each of them not guilty of counts one and two in this indictment."

The verdict comes nearly a year after one of the largest criminal trials in Canada's corporate history began.

The men each faced two counts of fraud -- one count of defrauding the public and one count of defrauding Nortel Networks Corp. They were accused of participating in a book-cooking scheme designed to trigger $12.8 million in bonuses and stocks for themselves at the once powerful Canadian technology giant.

All three were fired in 2004.

While Dunn did not address the media outside court, he released a statement saying he was "grateful to have received vindication."

"For a very long time, integrity has been the foundation of Nortel Networks' corporate governance and business practices. The documentary evidence and testimony re-affirmed this core value that I witnessed over my 28 years with the company," he said.

"I am looking forward to turning the page on this chapter of my life."

Outside court, Beatty smiled and replied, "Yes, I am," when asked if he was happy to be moving on with his life.

His lawyer, Greg Lafontaine said the ruling vindicated his client.

"We're ecstatic with the results," he said. "It's a great judgment... There was no fraud at Nortel."

At its height, Nortel employed more than 90,000 workers worldwide and was worth nearly $300 billion. During the technology boom in 1999-2000, Nortel was one of Canada's most valuable companies, with its shares peaking at $124.50.

In the years that followed the accounting scandal, the company's shares nosedived to penny-stock status amid falling sales, large debts, and a gamut of legal issues.

In 2009, Nortel filed for bankruptcy in North America and Europe, shedding thousands of jobs.

The Canadian Press

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