Donald Trump has granted a full pardon to the disgraced former media mogul and Daily Telegraph owner Conrad Black, telling the Conservative peer he hoped it would “expunge the bad wrap [sic] you got”.
Lord Black of Crossharbour, a Canadian-born British citizen, was the head of Hollinger International, which once owned the The Daily Telegraph, Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post and hundreds of community papers in the US and Canada.
But he was found guilty in 2007 of fraud and obstruction of justice and jailed for more than three years in the US. Jurors convicted Black of defrauding shareholders of $6.1m (£4.8m) by paying himself a tax-free bonus from the sale of newspapers, without board approval.
Black was released from prison in 2012 and last year wrote a book entitled: Donald J Trump: A President Like No Other. In 2015, Mr Trump described the peer as “one of the truly great intellects and my friend” after he wrote an article in the National Enquirer – titled “Trump is the Good Guy”.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Black was an “entrepreneur and scholar” who helped tutor fellow convicts in prison and was “entirely deserving of this grant of executive clemency”.
Writing in Canada’s National Post on Thursday, Black spoke of the phone call in which Mr Trump gave him the news.
“He could not have been more gracious and quickly got to his point: he was granting me a full pardon that would ‘expunge the bad wrap you got’.
“The American criminal justice system is frequently and largely evil; I was convicted for attempted obstruction of injustice. It was never anything but a smear job.”
The jury convicted him of three counts of fraud and one of obstruction at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois.
He was cleared of a further six counts of fraud, with the jury of nine women and three men clearing him of charges of racketeering and tax evasion.
The jury had to consider 42 counts against him and his three co-defendants – John Boultbee, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and Peter Atkinson, of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, who are both former Hollinger International vice presidents, and former corporate counsel Mark Kipnis, of Northbrook, Illinois, US – in a highly complex trial.
The prosecution said the money came mainly from the sale of hundreds of Hollinger-owned US and Canadian regional newspapers between 1998 and 2001, in which the buyers paid large sums in return for agreements that Hollinger would not compete with the new owners.
Black was granted bail pending an appeal against his conviction in 2010, with two of the fraud counts against him overturned in October of that year.
In a statement, the White House said: “In 2007, prosecutors alleged that Black had committed several acts of mail fraud and obstruction.
“The Supreme Court of the United States, however, largely disagreed and overturned almost all charges in his case. He nevertheless spent 3.5 years in prison.”
Ms Sanders said Black “has made tremendous contributions to business, and to political and historical thought”, adding that high-profile individuals – including Henry Kissinger, Elton John and Rush Limbaugh – had “vigorously vouched for his exceptional character”.
Additional reporting by agencies
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