Black accused of lying over assets to negotiate bail

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The Independent Online

Lord Black of Crossharbour, the former owner of The Daily Telegraph, has angrily rejected claims that he lied about his remaining assets when he negotiated his $20m (£11m) bail on fraud and racketeering charges.

The peer is to file legal papers in the next few days in response to allegations that he hid money from prosecutors, transferred assets to his wife, and lied about the value of the Florida mansion he pledged for the bail.

In a statement made through his lawyers, Lord Black criticised prosecutors for not having the "courtesy and decency" to inform him before their application this week to have his bail revoked.

A judge in Chicago will decide on Monday whether Lord Black has to put up more assets, or even hard cash, to maintain his bail - or whether to send him to jail pending his trial next year.

Lord Black may be jailed for the rest of his life over allegations he looted at least $92m from Hollinger International, the holding company for a media empire that spanned the UK, the US and his native Canada. An internal investigation triggered by outside shareholders in 2004 found that Lord Black had presided over a "corporate plutocracy" at Hollinger that funded a lavish lifestyle for himself, his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, and for other trusted executives.

David Radler, the former publisher of Hollinger's Chicago Sun-Times, pleaded guilty and is co-operating with the Justice Department. Lord Black insists he never broke the law.

In a court filing, federal prosecutors claim Lord Black's equity in his waterfront mansion in Palm Beach is much less than he told them when negotiating bail last year, and the Canadian tax authorities also have claims secured on it. Lord Black failed to pay the mortgage last month. Prosecutors are claiming that he understated the value of savings and a stake in a local newspaper group.

Their court filing states: "The defendant represented he had less than $300,000 in liquid assets... Yet, on April 24, 2006, the defendant wrote a check to the Palm Beach tax collector of $460,279.29... This weekend, the government has read in the Canadian press about Black's generous $500,000 donation to the Canadian Opera Company."

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