Black pleads not guilty to £47m fraud
LORD Black, the former owner of the Daily Telegraph, has appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to fraud charges in connection with the alleged looting of more than £47 million from the newspaper empire he once controlled.
He was arraigned in Chicago's District Court, two weeks after being indicted with three other former executives of Hollinger International and accused of cheating on taxes and pilfering millions from the company to support a lavish lifestyle.
Black, 61, who used to control a large stable of newspapers from Chicago to Jerusalem, dismissed the charges last week as "absolute nonsense" and "one massive smear job from A to Z".
However, during a 30-minute hearing before Judge Amy St Eve in Chicago early yesterday morning, he was calm and courteous. He answered numerous procedural questions with, "Yes, your honour", and showed none of the anger he displayed after he was indicted.
Asked after the hearing about the charges, he replied quietly but firmly: "They are completely without merit." He then headed back to his home in Canada.
His court appearance had been twice postponed and US prosecutors were ready with arrest warrants and planned to launch extradition proceedings if needed. But Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship to accept his peerage, appeared in court on schedule.
He waived his right to contest any extradition bid and said he would abide by a court order to travel only between Canada and the United States. Asked about the restrictions, he said: "They're onerous, but I want to meet my accusers and get rid of this nonsense."
Black was freed without having to lodge a cash bond, but if he fails to show up in court, he will forfeit 11.8 million - 5.2 million from the sale of his seized apartment on Park Avenue in New York and the rest from a government lien on his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
He told reporters: "The prosecutors have tried to strangle me financially and they've defamed me for two years. Now, they're going to have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to 12 assumably reasonable people that innocent men are guilty of crimes they would not in 100 years have dreamt of committing. Now, the advantage is with us."
Black faces up to 40 years in jail if convicted on all eight counts. A trial is not expected to start for at least six months, but he will have to return to court for a further hearing on 16 December.
His co-accused are Peter Atkinson, who was Hollinger's executive vice president, John Boultbee, the former chief financial officer, and Mark Kipnis, who worked as a lawyer for the group.
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