'Not even US Marines could keep me from trial'

Former 'Post' owner Conrad M. Black pleads not guilty to fraud.

conrad black 88 (photo credit: )
conrad black 88
(photo credit: )
Former press lord Conrad M. Black pleaded not guilty Friday to updated charges that he plundered millions of dollars from the media empire he once led, and promised to show up for his fraud trial. "The US Marines could not keep me away," the Canadian-born former chairman of media holding company Hollinger International Inc. told reporters when asked if he would appear for trial. Prosecutors have said Black has failed to live up to terms set by US District Judge Amy J. St. Eve for the $21 million bond to assure his appearance. He is three months in arrears on a $10m. balloon mortgage on a Palm Beach, Florida, home posted to secure the bond, prosecutors say. But prosecutors have not said they suspect he will flee. At the hearing, St. Eve issued a restraining order barring Black from moving or selling a $2.6m., 26-carat diamond ring, antiques and jewelry that belong to his wife. A Canadian court has already imposed a much broader order freezing Black's assets worldwide. Riding down in an elevator with reporters, Black was asked if he considered it fair that his assets have been tied up by two court orders. "What do you think?" he said. "Use your imagination." As expected, Black and three codefendants pleaded not guilty to the third version of the indictment that federal prosecutors have obtained. Black is charged with looting Hollinger International of millions of dollars, cheating on his taxes and using company money to finance his lavish lifestyle. The latest version of the indictment charges Black also caused the company to file false tax returns, underreporting $29m. in income. Recently, prosecutors have been most concerned about making certain that Black's bond is kept high enough to make certain he shows up for trial and that he does not dispose of assets a court might order forfeited. Prosecutors last week asked St. Eve to order that the diamond ring, antiques and jewelry be placed under a restraining order barring Black from moving them, selling them, transferring ownership or destroying them. St. Eve's order was only temporary while Black attorneys prepare a motion to free the assets. The judge set an October 5 hearing on the issue. St. Eve asked Black attorney Edward M. Genson if he knew where the assets were. He said he did not but assured her the order would be obeyed. "Wherever they are, they are not going to be moved," Genson said. He said the items were purchased by Black and now were his wife's property. Hollinger International's holdings once included The Jerusalem Post, The Daily Telegraph and Canada's largest newspaper group. Its last remaining property is the Chicago Sun-Times. The company recently changed its name to Sun Times Media Group Inc.