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Ebbers fraud trial kicks off

Ex-CFO faces probe into private life

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The trial into the financial collapse of WorldCom in 2002 got underway in New York yesterday with US District Judge Barbara S Jones ruling that the defence is allowed to probe the private life of the prosecution's star witness.

The "star witness" in question just happens to be former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan. Last year he admitted "engaging in a fraudulent scheme to conceal WorldCom's poor financial performance" and agreed to co-operate with the investigation against former WorldCom boss Bernie Ebbers.

His testimony is widely believed to be crucial to fingering Ebbers as the brains behind the $11bn (£5.8bn) accounting scandal. Ebbers denies any wrongdoing in the demise in WorldCom.

In pre-trial motions yesterday the defence team was buoyed by news that Judge Jones had agreed to let the defence quiz Sullivan about alleged "marital infidelities". It's understood that the defence is likely to use this to undermine the credibility of the former CFO.

Today the court is expected to begin selecting a jury. The trial is expected to last between four and eight weeks. ®

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