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Facing 85 year sentence

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WorldCon founder Bernard Ebbers has been found guilty on all charges related to the massive accounting fraud that brought the telecomms giant to its knees, the Associated Press reports.

Following eight days of deliberation, a Manhattan federal jury returned guilty verdicts on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, and seven counts of filing false reports.

During the trial, on the witness stand, Ebbers had portrayed himself as an innocent bumpkin manipulated by a mercenary senior staff. He claimed to have no education in business and finance, and was therefore not qualified even to detect the grotesque distortions of the company's finances, much less direct them.

But former financial honcho Scott Sullivan, who has pleaded guilty to similar charges, contradicted Ebbers' testimony, claiming that the scam was executed on Ebbers' orders. Sullivan has admitted to working out the nuts and bolts of the fraud, but he testified that it was Ebbers who had directed it.

Cui bono?

Ebbers had guaranteed $400 million in loans with his shares in the company, and was therefore motivated personally as well as professionally to see its share prices remain inflated. Much of Ebbers' personal wealth was directly tied to company share prices, in an increasingly complex series of transactions intended to prevent him from havint to sell them in quantity, and so signaling that the company was in trouble.

Concealing company costs and improperly recording revenues had a significant impact on Ebbers' personal finances and the company's finances, which, by 2001, were becoming increasingly interlinked. This, the prosecution alleged, established the motive for Ebbers to direct the accounting fraud.

The jury apparently did not believe that Ebbers - whatever his educational background - could have been so far out of the loop, and so ignorant of the company that he'd founded, to be innocent of all involvement, especially when he had such a deep personal interest in the company's finances.

Sentencing is scheduled for 13 June. ®

Related stories

Ebbers jury weighs up evidence
Ebbers denies knowledge of WorldCom fraud
Sullivan tells of WorldCom fraud fears
Ebbers 'drove Worldcom fraud' - Sullivan

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