Conrad Black drops request to return to Canada while he's free on bail; former media baron to remain in U.S. while an appeal that could bring a final resolution in his case goes ahead

TORONTO , August 9, 2010 () – Conrad Black has dropped his request to return to Canada while he is free on bail and will remain in the U.S. while an appeal that could bring a final resolution in his case goes ahead.

The former media baron was scheduled to appear Aug. 16 before Judge Amy St. Eve in Chicago and produce a detailed financial affidavit before she would consider allowing him to return to his Toronto home.

But he will no longer appear this month before the judge after his lawyers and the prosecution struck a deal to delay that hearing until Sept. 20.

By that time, a U.S. Appeals Court reviewing the status of Black's convictions may have already decided how to proceed with the case. The appeals court panel is led by Judge Richard Posner, who took only 20 days to reach a decision in an earlier appeal by Black.

Steven Skurka, a criminal lawyer in Toronto who authored a book on Black's 2007 trial, said the appeal is moving forward so rapidly there's a good chance a decision by Posner could be handed down before Black's September court date.

"I don't see the issue that was abandoned (Thursday) ever being revisited in a bail hearing," Skurka said.

"And clearly if Conrad Black wins his appeal, he'll have every opportunity to come back to Canada."

Black's lawyer withdrew the request to return to Canada in a submission filed with the district courthouse in Chicago on Thursday.

Skurka believes the request to return to Canada was withdrawn because it was no longer practical for Black to leave the U.S. while the appeals court reviews arguments from his lawyer and the prosecution regarding the fate of his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions.

"There was simply no degree of certainty that even if the judge ordered the change permitting him to come to Canada that that could be accomplished before an appeal was decided," Skurka said.

The request was also likely withdrawn over concerns of Black entering a "perjury trap," potentially having his bail revoked as a result of giving misleading financial information. In 2006, the prosecution attempted to revoke Black's bail alleging that he provided misleading information in his affidavit.

"But I think it has to be more than that because if that was the case Black's lawyer would have abandoned this application on the last occasion two weeks ago," Skurka added.

In Black's first bail hearing July 23, St. Eve -- who presided over his original fraud and obstruction of justice case -- said she needed more information about the former media tycoon's finances before she reconsiders his request to return to Toronto.

Black was in a Florida prison until he was released on bail in July after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the law used to convict him of fraud.

The decision didn't clear Black but ordered a lower court to decide whether the three fraud convictions should be overturned.

Black could make the request to return to Canada again at the Sept. 20 hearing.

But even if the U.S. ultimately decides to let Black travel, whether Canada will let Black return is another question. He's been convicted of an indictable offence and renounced his Canadian citizenship a decade ago to become a member of the British House of Lords.

His only recourse may be a special dispensation from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Black is still facing several civil suits. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service also recently launched a $71-million lawsuit for alleged unpaid taxes.

Black has challenged the IRS's claim, arguing that he was "neither a citizen nor a resident of the United States" and therefore not obliged to pay taxes in the U.S.

The IRS's case against him hearkens back to a far grander period in Black's life, alleging he failed to report and pay taxes on income stemming from personal use of Hollinger's corporate jets, the use of corporate money to buy former president Franklin D. Roosevelt's papers, and Hollinger International Inc.'s purchase 10 years ago of a US$5.9-million New York apartment for his use.

Hollinger once owned the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London, The Jerusalem Post and hundreds of community papers in the U.S. and Canada.

At the core of the charges against Black was his strategy, starting in 1998, of selling off the bulk of the small community papers published in smaller cities across the United States and Canada.

Black and other Hollinger executives received millions of dollars in payments from the companies that bought the community papers in return for promises that they would not return to compete with the new owners.

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