Sun, May 06, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Conrad Black arrives in Canada after prison term

‘HONEST’ SERVICES:The former owner of a media empire spanning across the world is free after three years in jail for defrauding investors of millions

AP, TORONTO

Former media mogul Conrad Black arrived in Canada on Friday and was spotted kissing his wife and roaming the grounds of his sprawling Toronto estate on Friday just hours after being released from a federal prison in the US.

Black, whose empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London, and the Jerusalem Post, served about three years in jail for defrauding investors.

A former member of the British House of Lords, he had been sentenced to more than six years in prison after his 2007 conviction in Chicago, but had then been released on bail two years later to pursue an appeal that was partially successful. A judge reduced his sentence to three years and he returned to prison in September.

Black’s three-month trial drew international attention, heightened by his sometimes haughty comments. At the core of the honest-services charges against Black was his strategy, starting in 1998, of selling off the bulk of Hollinger’s community papers published in small cities across the US and Canada.

Black and other Hollinger executives received millions of dollars from the companies that bought the community papers in return for promises that they would not compete with the new owners.

Prosecutors said the executives pocketed the money, which they said belonged to shareholders, without telling Hollinger’s board of directors.

Black’s big chance to quash his convictions arose in June 2010, when the US Supreme Court sharply curtailed the disputed “honest services” laws that underpinned part of the case against him.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago tossed out two of Black’s fraud convictions last year, citing that landmark ruling, but upheld one conviction for fraud and one for obstruction of justice that were not affected by the Supreme Court’s ruling. The fraud conviction involved Black and others taking US$600,000 was straightforward theft, the judges concluded.

Earl Cherniak, one of Black’s lawyers, said Black just wants to rest.

“I mean he’s been in a cell with two other people and one toilet. Would you want to be out partying tonight? I don’t think so,” Cherniak said.

Black, 67, and his wife have long been a prominent couple on Toronto’s social circuit, partying with such celebrities as Elton John and Donald Trump, and are known for leading a lavish lifestyle.

At his re-sentencing hearing last year, several inmates wrote letters to the judge saying Black had changed their lives through lectures he gave on writing, history, economics and other subjects. However, one prison employee said in an affidavit that Black had inmates “acting like servants” to iron his clothes, mop his floor and perform other chores.

There is a chance Black could be celebrating soon, as his memoir, A Matter of Principle, is a finalist for Canada’s National Business Book Award. The book details his legal fight against US authorities.

Postmedia chief executive Paul Godfrey has him write for Postmedia’s National Post newspaper, which Black founded, and expects him to write his usual Sunday column.

“If he misses a week for any reason, he doesn’t miss many I’ll tell you that, we get calls. He’s a very well read columnist. People who like or don’t like him read him,” Godfrey said.

Richard Siklos, author of several books about the former media mogul, said Black will probably do more writing, go on the speech circuit, and will likely do business more privately.

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