Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ex-mogul returns to Toronto home

Released after U.S. prison stint; allowed into Canada on permit

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A warm homecoming kiss from wife Barbara Amiel greeted Conrad Black at his Toronto home Friday, just hours after the disgraced media baron -- jailed for years on fraud and obstruction-of-justice charges -- was released from a prison in Florida.

Journalists peering through a wrought-iron fence spotted the couple roaming the grounds of Black's sprawling Bridle Path estate -- a tranquil neighbourhood of mansions known by some as Millionaire's Row -- as two rambunctious white dogs played at their feet.

They paused briefly for a kiss amid the flowering trees on the property before retreating back inside the house.

Later, Amiel came out to the front gate but had little to say to reporters about how her husband was feeling.

"It's not been easy, but he'll be fine, thank you very much and be nice to my dogs," she said.

The sighting came just hours after a three-vehicle caravan that was believed to be carrying Black roared through the front gate of the Federal Correctional Institute in Miami.

The 8:15 a.m. motorcade looked more like it should have been reserved for a visiting diplomat than a convicted criminal.

A prison guard's pickup truck, with flashing lights and a blasting siren, blocked rush-hour traffic on the busy boulevard that runs by the facility's front gate.

The move allowed two SUVs and a green van with tinted windows to make a quick exit from the suburban complex, giving a dozen journalists assembled nearby little time to focus their cameras on the vehicles.

Canadian and American journalists, at least one of whom had spent the night staking out the prison's front gate, watched the scene while standing on a median that divides the bustling street.

"Earlier today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement and removal operations effected the return of Mr. Conrad Black to Canada in accordance with the final order of removal," officials said in a statement.

Despite the fact Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to accept a British peerage, Ottawa granted his application for a one-year temporary resident permit.

Black was sent to jail in 2007 for convictions related to his business dealings at the helm of newspaper giant Hollinger Inc.

He was originally sentenced to serve 78 months in jail after he was convicted of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice by a Chicago jury.

The four-month trial focused on the complaints of shareholders, who said they had been swindled out of $6.1 million.

He served his first prison stint -- about 21/2 years -- in Florida's Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. He was released on bail in 2010 after an appeal court reversed two of his three fraud convictions.

Black was ordered back to prison last September to finish his reduced sentence of 42 months in Miami. With 29 months already served, and additional credit for good behaviour, he remained behind bars for just eight months.

His Miami home since September had been a nondescript complex of low-lying, concrete buildings about a half-hour drive from downtown. The grounds feature outdoor amenities such as basketball courts and a baseball diamond.

From the road, the low-security institution is unassuming.

The front gate sat wide open over the last couple of days, with only a fence topped with barbed wire and a few Department of Justice signs offering any indication a prison lies deeper on the grounds.

The red-roofed buildings, which once housed former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, sit behind an imposing fence wrapped with large swirls of razor wire.

Earl Cherniak, Black's Toronto-based lawyer, said his client just wants to rest.

"The man's been in prison for I don't know how long. He wants to decompress," Cherniak 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."

-- The Canadian Press, with files from The Associated Press

Conrad Black: a timeline

1944: Born Aug. 25 in Montreal.

1966: Buys his first newspaper, the Eastern Townships Advertiser, and becomes publisher and editor.

1976: Publishes his first book, Duplessis, a biography of Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis.

1987: Becomes chairman of Hollinger Inc., which owns a stake in Saturday Night magazine in Canada and the Daily Telegraph in the U.K.

1990: Becomes an Officer of the Order of Canada.

1992: Appointed to the Privy Council of Canada.

1992: Buys a stake in the Southam Newspaper company in Canada.

1992: Marries his second wife, columnist Barbara Amiel.

1998: Founds the National Post.

2000: Sells many of his newspaper assets to Canwest Global Communications. Keeps half of the National Post.

2001: Hollinger sells remaining Canadian newspaper assets.

2001: Renounces his Canadian citizenship to sit in the British House of Lords.

2003: Refuses to answer questions posed by the Securities and Exchange Commission about payments he received from Hollinger.

2004: Is pushed out of his executive positions with Hollinger amid police and securities commission investigations.

2005: Video of Black, his chauffeur and his personal assistant removing boxes of files from Hollinger's Toronto office, in violation of a court order, are broadcast on television.

2005: Formally charged with eight counts of mail fraud and wire fraud by American prosecutors. Is freed on US$1.5-million bail after pleading not guilty. Days later, racketeering, money-laundering and obstruction-of-justice charges are added to his case.

2006: Begins process to regain his Canadian citizenship.

2007: Convicted of obstruction of justice and fraud in a trial in Chicago related to his management of Hollinger Inc. He is sentenced to 61/2 years in prison.

2008: Begins serving his sentence in a Florida prison. Continues to write columns for the National Post.

2009: U.S. Supreme Court announces it will hear his appeal.

2010: Is released on bail in July after the Supreme Court of the United States rules in his favour that laws were improperly applied in his case and sends the case back to a lower court. He asks to be allowed to return to Canada while on bail but request is denied.

2011: Is sent back to prison on a count of mail fraud and a count of obstruction of justice. Other charges are dismissed.

May 2012: Is released from prison in Florida and returns to his home in Toronto.

-- compiled by Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2012 A22

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