TORONTO (Reuters) - Former press baron Conrad Black was released from a Florida prison on Friday and flown to his home in Canada, which has granted him a temporary resident permit despite his criminal record.
Black arrived by car at his mansion in Toronto, kissed his wife Barbara Amiel, and walked around the leafy grounds with the couple’s two large dogs, with spring flowers blooming in the background.
Black, convicted by a U.S. court of fraud and obstruction of justice, was clearly enjoying his freedom, and the couple acknowledged the photographers and television cameras recording their movements from beyond the fence of their imposing home.
Black, 67, gave up his Canadian citizenship, and with it his automatic right to live in Canada, to become a member of the British House of Lords.
But Canada’s Department of Citizenship and Immigration granted him a one-year permit to live in Canada even though his conviction in the United States gave him a criminal record.
In 2007 a federal jury found Black guilty of scheming with partner David Radler and other executives to siphon off millions of dollars in proceeds from the sale of newspapers as they unwound Hollinger International, once the world’s third-largest publisher of English-language newspapers.
At its heyday, the group operated the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, London’s Daily Telegraph and dozens of other newspapers.
Black was released from prison in July 2010, while his case was under appeal. Two of his three fraud convictions were voided and his original 78-month sentence was shortened. After the appeal, he returned to prison in September 2011.
The U.S. authorities confirmed Black’s departure in a terse statement: “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.”
He had served his sentence at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Miami.
Canada’s the leftist opposition New Democratic Party lambasted the government in Parliament on Tuesday for agreeing to let “the British criminal Conrad Black” come back to Canada.
Conservative Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the decision was taken by independent public servants with no direction from him or his office, and was similar to thousands other temporary resident permits granted each year to overcome criminal inadmissibility.
Throughout his convictions and his imprisonment, Black maintained his innocence, declaring that he was hounded by U.S. prosecutors and enemies in the media and in public life.
In a book published last August, “A Matter of Principle,” he wrote that much of the Western press was “agog with jubilant stories about the collapse of my standing and influence”.
“For years I was widely reviled, defamed, and routinely referred to as ‘disgraced’ or ‘shamed’ and ‘convicted fraudster’,” he wrote. “In light of my lately improving fortunes most of my less rabid critics are now hedging their bets. Whatever happens, this will not be the end of my modest story.”
Additional reporting by Joe Skipper and Tom Brown in Miami and Randall Palmer in Ottawa; Editing by Eric Beech and Janet Guttsman