Conrad Black walks free, but faces a tough climb back to respectability

 

The disgraced former media magnate Conrad Black was heading to a home in Toronto, Canada, last night after being released from a prison in Florida where he had been serving time stemming from his 2007 convictions for defrauding investors in his now defunct newspaper conglomerate, Hollinger.

As expected Black, who once controlled The Daily Telegraph, The Jerusalem Post and the Chicago Sun-Times, left a federal corrections centre in Miami early yesterday. While he had requested quick transit to Toronto he was first taken into custody by US immigration officials for deportation processing. Canada said last week it would grant him a one-year resident's visa. US officials said he would be free to travel either to Canada or Britain. He would not be permitted to stay in the US.

Now 67, Black was expecting to rejoin his wife Barbara Amiel, a columnist, in the Toronto home they still own and begin a long climb back to respectability and social acceptance.

In 2001 he renounced his Canadian citizenship to take a place in the House of Lords in Britain as Lord Black of Crossharbour. Yesterday he was able at last to dispense with a title of a different kind: prisoner No. 18330-424.

Black was convicted in 2007 on charges of fraud and obstruction of justice arising from a scheme to pocket proceeds from the sale of Hollinger's community newspapers without telling the board of directors. He was sentenced to six and half years but was released on bail in 2010 to pursue an appeal, which was partially successful. Black returned to prison last September to serve the remainder of a reduced sentence.

Prison was a big comedown for Black, whose former lifestyle encompassed a Fifth Avenue apartment in New York, a mansion in Florida and a $62,000 birthday bash for his wife.

At his second sentencing, other inmates said he had changed their lives giving them lessons in writing, history and economics. But one inmate reported he had also had the tendency to use fellow inmates as "servants" to mop floors.

Black maintained his innocence through his ordeal that drew international attention. Public sympathy might have come more easily but for his talent for haughty pronouncements and pomposity.

He was ejected from his own company in 2003 by shareholders who cited a $500m (£310m) "corporate kleptocracy". Prosecutors filed charges the following year, alleging the theft of $60m from Hollinger investors.

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