WorldCom boss Bernie Ebbers was accused of lying to the jury yesterday as the fraud trial surrounding the $11bn (£5.8bn) collapse of the giant US telco entered its final phase.
Assistant US Attorney William Johnson rounded on Ebbers' testimony that the former head of the telecoms giant and the man accused of masterminding the massive corporate fraud was unaware of the accounting scandal.
The prosecution lawyer told the jury: "When he said he was not sophisticated, not trained in accounting, he treated you no better than he treated ordinary shareholders. He lied right to your face. It insults your intelligence that Ebbers could have built the company up from nothing in ten years and still be clueless about its financial performance."
In closing arguments that lasted three hours, reports USA Today, Johnson set out the prosecution's case against Ebbers.
"Money, power and pressure corrupted Bernard J Ebbers to commit fraud on a billion-dollar scale. WorldCom had truly become WorldCon. Bernie Ebbers was the leader of WorldCom and the leader of the con," said Johnson.
And on the matter of why Ebbers orchestrated the fraud, Johnson said: "Who had the greatest motivation to fool WorldCom investors? Who had the most to lose if the truth, the bad news came out? Who had the power, the ultimate authority at WorldCom to direct all these people to do all these things to make it work?"
Taking the stand earlier this week Ebbers - who denies the fraud charges against him - insisted he was unaware of the book fiddling.
He told the court: "I don't know about technology and I don't know about finance and accounting."
He said he was "shocked" when he found out about the fraud. I never thought anything like that had gone on. And referring to the admission by some former employees - including the former CFO Scott Sullivan - that they had carried out the fraud Ebbers said: "I put those people in place, and I trusted those people. I had no earthly idea that that would occur."
The defence is expected to conclude its case today. ®