Conrad Black was on Thursday night day released on a $20m bail agreement after the former head of the Hollinger media empire pleaded not guilty to multiple fraud charges in a US federal court.
Lord Black and three former associates face 11 counts of fraud relating to the alleged siphoning of funds and excessive corporate perks during their time at the Canadian group, which sold the Telegraph newspaper group last year and still owns the Chicago Sun-Times.
Lord Black, 61, was due to fly back to Canada last night after waiving his right to contest any extradition proceedings from Canada or the UK. US prosecutors had said they would seek his extradition should he fail to appear in court or break any bail conditions.
The peer appeared relaxed in court and talked briefly with reporters in the courtroom, confirming that he had made no attempt to reapply for the Canadian citizenship renounced when he took his seat in the House of Lords.
The bail conditions require him to surrender a non-working antique gun in his Canadian home. He is due back in court on December 16 and is only allowed to travel between Canada and the US.
Prosecutors are seeking the return of $83.8m, which they allege the quartet sought to defraud from Hollinger in an orchestrated scheme during the company’s sale of hundreds of local newspapers in Canada and the US. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years, as well as a $250,000 fine.
Lord Black has been pursued by Patrick Fitzgerald, the high-profile US attorney, and was formally charged on November 17 with eight counts of fraud. He had been due to appear in court on November 21 but was given more time to organise his defence counsel.
His defence team is led by Edward Greenspan, his long-time Canadian attorney, supported by Edward Genson, a colourful Chicago lawyer.
Mr Greenspan said after the hearing he was confident Lord Black – who has vehemently contested the charges – would receive a fair trial.
Mark Kipnes, Hollinger’s former general counsel, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday while another associate, Peter Atkinson, a former executive vice-president, also pleaded not guilty on Thursday.
A fourth defendant, Jack Boultbee, is expected in court next week. David Radler, once Lord Black’s closest confidant, was released in September on bail of $500,000 after pleading guilty to related fraud charges.