Black seeks to get back Canadian citizenship

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The Independent Online

Lord Black of Crossharbour, the former owner of the Daily Telegraph who is fighting charges of looting his old media empire, is trying to regain the Canadian citizenship he renounced to take his seat in the UK's House of Lords.

Conrad Black has been confined to North America awaiting trial on charges of fraud and racketeering and has been spending most of his time in Toronto where he says he has "settled into a new life as a freedom fighter".

He told Canadian television: "I always said that I would take my citizenship back, and if it wasn't for all these legal problems, I would have done it by now. But I'm working on it, going through the normal channels like everyone else."

The media baron was involved in a messy public battle with the former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien, who insisted he give up his dual citizenship if he took the seat in the Lords offered to him by William Hague, the then Conservative party leader. M. Chrétien's view was upheld by the Canadian courts, and Lord Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001.

The Hollinger media empire that once gave Lord Black the keys to the British establishment has been broken up since he stepped down from the business in 2003. Federal prosecutors in the US accuse him of looting at least $92m (£49m) from the New York-listed business, Hollinger International, while his Canadian company, Hollinger Inc, is suing him for $700m, alleging widespread asset stripping. He and his wife had their worldwide assets frozen by an Ontario court in August, and he has had his income limited to $20,000 a month.

Lord Black told Canadian television that he would neither settle the civil case, nor agree a plea bargain to halt the US criminal trial, due to start in Chicago in the spring. "I've committed no offence. I'm concerned about my reputation here. I've been terribly defamed," he said. "I have settled into my new life as a freedom fighter. It's very interesting and it's quite stimulating, in a way, but it is an ordeal."