Black faces new charges over diamond ring

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The Independent Online

Lord Black of Crossharbour, the former owner of the Daily Telegraph, spent more than $3m (£1.6m) looted from his media company on antique furniture and jewellery - including a diamond ring costing $2.6m - according to new documents filed by US prosecutors.

The Department of Justice has added the items to a list of assets it wants Lord Black to forfeit if he is found guilty of fraud and racketeering.

A federal grand jury in Illinois has handed down two additional charges against Lord Black and his alleged co-conspirators at Hollinger Inc, the publicly traded media group he controlled. He is accused of filing false tax returns by under-reporting total corporate income by approximately $13m and $16m respectively, for 1999 and 2000.

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 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 and the other defendants insist they never broke the law.

In an updated indictment, it is alleged that Lord Black spent $2.6m of his ill-gotten gains on a 26-carat diamond ring from the exclusive jeweller, the House of Graff, in November 2000. At the same time, he spent a further $600,000 on antique furniture and other jewellery.

In total, prosecutors want Lord Black and his co-defendants to forfeit assets worth $32m. They have already demanded the peer's luxury apartment in New York and waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, both of which have been tied up as part of his bail bond.

He is free pending the trial scheduled to start in Chicago next March, and has angrily vowed to clear his name. The allegations caused Lord Black to lose control of the Hollinger media empire, which has since been broken up. The Telegraph titles in the UK were sold to the Barclay brothers, and Hollinger has been renamed Sun-Times Media, to reflect the fact the Chicago Sun-Times is its most significant remaining asset.

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