Lord Black of Crossharbour was last night granted bail on a $20m bond secured in part against his Palm Beach mansion after he pleaded not guilty to charges that he defrauded his former publishing empire Hollinger of millions of dollars.
As part of the conditions for the freedom of the former owner of The Daily Telegraph, the bond also included almost $9m the US government last month seized from the sale of Lord Black's Park Avenue apartment in New York. The Canadian peer also agreed to travel only between his home in Toronto, Canada and Palm Beach, Florida and Chicago until the trial, whose date is yet to be set.
Lord Black flew in from his home in Toronto for the arraignment hearing in Chicago yesterday, which he has twice delayed. He spoke little in Chicago's Federal Court, simply answering "yes" and "no" to the questions of Judge Amy St Eve, and glowering at the press who had gathered from the UK, Canada and the US.
Dressed in a dark blue suit and yellow tie, Lord Black entered the plea of not guilty to eight criminal counts that were lodged against him two weeks ago by Patrick Fitzgerald, the high-profile government attorney. Each count carries a maximum five-year sentence and a $250,000 fine. If found guilty on all counts Lord Black faces up to 40 years in prison. Lord Black said after the hearing that the allegations he tried to defraud Hollinger of $84m were "completely without merit".
His lawyers are made up of stars from the Canadian and American legal world. He has hired Edward Genson, one of Chicago's most famous defence lawyers, whose previous clients have included the singer R Kelly. Mr Genson gets around in an electric buggy due to a neurological disorder.
Before the hearing, Lord Black's Canadian lawyer, Edward Greenspan, attempted to dispel rumours Lord Black had considered triggering extradiction proceedings by refusing to appear in Chicago. Mr Greenspan said: "He will not avoid his responsibility to attend, he wants to attend and he expects to be acquitted. Lord Black's legal team is however understood to be investigating whether he might regain his Canadian citizenship which he relinquished in 2001 to become a member of the House of Lords."
If found guilty Lord Black might be able to serve his sentence in Canada.
In court, Lord Black was addressed simply as Mr Black by the judge. In an otherwise perfunctory hearing, there was discussion about a gun in Lord Black's Toronto home. Despite reassurance that the firearm did not work the judge ruled that Lord Black had to turn it over.Reuse content