Black is back

Disgraced former press baron Conrad
Black is a free man after posting a $2 million bail.

Judge Amy St. Eve of the U.S.
District Court in Chicago released Black, 65, free while she considers whether
to throw out his 2007 conviction for defrauding shareholders. The dramatic
release came in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threw a huge
question mark over his convictions.

The 65-year-old former Daily
Telegraph owner has served two years and three months of a six-and-a-half year
sentence for raiding the coffers of his once mighty newspaper empire,
Hollinger, and trying to cover up his crime.

But he was released after his
lawyers argued the ex-newspaper magnate should be granted bail while waiting
for a hearing in Chicago’s Court of Appeal to decide whether to overturn the
convictions in the light of June’s Supreme Court decision.

Black applied for his release
immediately after Supreme Court justices ruled on 24 June that the law used to
convict him on three fraud charges was too vague.

Before his fall from grace, Black
who renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to become a British peer was the
third biggest newspaper publisher in the world.

As well as the Telegraph, he owned
the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, Canada’s National Post and hundreds
of smaller community newspapers in North America.

With his company associates, he was
accused of skimming off as much as $60 million from the company between 1999
and 2001.

His fall from grace was punctuated
by his 2007 conviction on three counts of mail and wire fraud, honest services
fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. He started serving his sentence
until March, 2008.

In addition to the jail term, he
was ordered to pay back $6 million to Hollinger.

Despite his new-found freedom,
Black still faces legal battles on several other fronts.

He faces a variety of civil actions
from creditors and investors and he has lawsuits outstanding against some of
his early accusers including Richard Breedan, former chairman of the Securities
and Exchange Commission.

Last week the U.S. Internal Revenue
Service added to his woes by slapping him with a $70 million tax bill which
they alleged he owed for failing to pay taxes on more than $115 million in
income he received between 1998 and 2003.

WORLDBlackisbackSTORY

Conrad Black leaves the Dirksen Federal Court-house after his sentencing hearing in Chicago 10 December, 2007.
Photo: guardian.co.uk
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