Former media baron released from US jail

Conrad Black had been jailed in Miami for defrauding shareholders of $6.1m in media holding company Hollinger.

    Conrad Black was ordered back to prison after a judge ruled he had not served enough time [Al Jazeera]
    Conrad Black was ordered back to prison after a judge ruled he had not served enough time [Al Jazeera]

    Conrad Black, the former media baron, has been freed from a US prison after serving his more-than-three-year sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice, prison officials say.

    The 67-year-old Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to accept a peerage in Britain's House of Lords,  was first freed in July 2010 after serving more than two years into a six-and-a-half year term.

    The US supreme court freed him on the grounds that an anti-corruption law under which he had been tried was unconstitutional.

    But he was ordered back to prison in June 2011, with a district judge in Chicago ruling that he had not yet served enough time in prison to remain at liberty.

    "Mr Conrad Black has been released this morning from FCC Coleman in Florida," Chris Burke, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, was quoted as saying on Friday by the AFP news agency.

    Back to Canada

    The Associated Press said Black arrived at his sprawling estate in Toronto, Canada, on Friday just hours after he walked to freedom.

    Earl Cherniak, Black's Toronto-based lawyer, said Black just wanted to rest after his release from prison.

    "The man's been in prison for I don't know how long. He wants to decompress," he said. "I mean he's been in a cell with two other people and one toilet. Would you want to be out partying tonight? I don't think so."

    Despite renouncing his citizenship, the Canadian government granted his application for a one-year temporary resident permit, which allowed him to return to Canada.

    Black was convicted in 2007 for defrauding shareholders of $6.1m in Hollinger, a media holding company. 

    His empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Jerusalem Post and small papers across the US and Canada.

    Black and other Hollinger executives received millions of dollars in payments from the companies that bought the community papers in return for promises that they would not return to compete with the new owners.

    Impact on inmates' lives

    Prosecutors said the executives pocketed the money, which they said belonged to shareholders, without telling Hollinger's board of directors.

    At his resentencing hearing last year, several inmates wrote letters to the judge saying Black had changed their lives through lectures he gave on writing, history, economics and other subjects.

    But one prison employee claimed in an affidavit that Black had arranged for inmates - "acting like servants" - to iron his clothes, mop his floor and perform other chores. Another employee said Black once insisted she address him as "Lord Black".

    In a memoir published last August, "A Matter of Principle," detailing his legal fight against US authorities, Black wrote that much of the Western press was "agog with jubilant stories about the collapse of my standing and influence".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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