Black avoids humiliation of court appearance on fraud charges

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The Independent Online

Conrad Black, the former owner of The Daily Telegraph, yesterday averted a humiliating appearance in federal court in the US over criminal allegations that he looted the company, by successfully arguing for more time to prepare his defence.

Lord Black will now appear in the federal court in Chicago next Wednesday to answer fraud charges over his actions as chairman and chief executive of the media company Hollinger International.

It is not clear whether the colourful Canadian-born peer will avoid being arrested. In previous high-profile corporate fraud case such as the one against Kenneth Lay, the former chairman of Enron, suspects have been handcuffed before being led into court.

Lord Black is currently in Toronto. If he chooses not to appear next week, government lawyers will start extradition proceedings.

Robert Kent, the lead prosecutor, said in court yesterday: "We have arrest warrants in our possession. Hopefully we will not need to execute them."

Lord Black, 61, faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on all eight counts he was accused of last week. Prosecutors described the alleged crime as "the grossest abuse" and accused Lord Black and his colleagues of making it their job to "steal and conceal" from the company.

Lord Black's lawyer Edward Greenspan said last week: "Conrad Black asserts his innocence without qualification."

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