Ex-'Post' owner calls fraud charges 'smear job'

Fallen newspaper magnate Conrad Black derided US fraud charges against him as a "massive smear job" and vowed to be vindicated of accusations he looted millions of dollars from Hollinger International. His defiant comments came just days after he failed to show up for arraignment Tuesday in US federal court in Chicago. The court granted him an extra eight days to appear or face likely extradition proceedings. "There's no truth or substance whatsoever to these charges," Black said in a brief surprise appearance Thursday at a Toronto book launch party. "This has been one massive smear job from A to Z," he said. Black, 61, faces charges he defrauded the Hollinger International publishing empire he formerly controlled out of tens of millions of dollars. Hollinger International Inc. owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other publications in the United States and Canada and formerly controlled the Daily Telegraph of London and the Jerusalem Post. An eight-count federal indictment filed Nov. 17 accuses Black of skimming millions of dollars from Hollinger coffers through bogus fees and abuses of perquisites, such as using the corporate jet for a vacation in Bora Bora and dipping into the company treasury to pay for his wife's birthday party. The Canadian-born Black, who has residences in Toronto, London, and Palm Springs, California, faces a maximum 40 years in prison if convicted on all counts.