[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 23:41 GMT
Conrad Black appears in US court
Conrad Black
Conrad Black finally arrived in court after two postponements
Media tycoon Conrad Black has appeared in a Chicago courtroom to deny charges of fraud totalling $84m (48.5m).

Once owner of the Daily Telegraph in London, he was indicted in October with three other executives of his former group, Hollinger International.

Two of them failed to appear in court in Chicago on Wednesday.

The British peer has called the charges that he abused the firm's funds and diverted money from the sale of a subsidiary "absolute nonsense".

On the way into the court, our correspondent reports that Lord Black said he was the victim of "character assassination", but was confident of acquittal.

He was released after pleading his innocence on bail set at $20m (11.5m).

Asset recovery

Despite a warrant for his arrest, Lord Black was offered the chance to come to court himself from his current residence in Canada to make his plea and post bail.

On arrival at the court, Lord Black had his fingerprints and photographs taken.

The experience contrasts with high-rolling lifestyle at the heart of the case against him, which suggests - among other things - that he used company money to pay for his wife's birthday party.

It also alleges that the couple spent 875,000 ($1,5m) of the firm's funds to decorate their New York apartment.

WHAT ARE LORD BLACK AND OTHERS ACCUSED OF?
Fraudulently siphoning off $51.8m from the sale of assets by Hollinger International through a series of misleading transactions
Abusing corporate perks by using a company jet for a private holiday and spending $40,000 of company funds on a party for Lord Black's wife
Fraudulently diverting $32m from Hollinger International through unauthorised transactions
Lord Black is accused of lying to shareholders at Hollinger International's AGM and causing false disclosures to be made to the Securities and Exchange Commission

Prosecutors are seeking to recover $80m from the four defendants.

Delays

The arraignment was originally due a week ago, but Lord Black's lawyer asked for more time.

One of the two who failed to make an appearance on Wednesday - ex-vice president Peter Atkinson - joined Lord Black in court on Thursday.

A fifth defendant, former business partner David Radler, has agreed to testify against the peer, having pleaded guilty to similar charges and received a sentence of 29 months in jail.

Without such a bargain, if found guilty Lord Black could face up to 40 years behind bars.

Lord Black was ejected from the chairmanship of Hollinger International in January 2004, having been ousted from the position of chief executive two months earlier.

He is now believed to be trying to resume the Canadian citizenship he renounced in order to claim his British peerage in 2001.

As a Canadian, he would find it easier to fight extradition to the US and might - if convicted - be able to serve his sentence in a Canadian jail.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Conrad Black speak outside the court



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific