It’s make or break week for Conrad Black in his long-running fraud trial. But in a separate case, it’s now his wife who is having legal problems.
Lady Black is accused of removing five valuable chandeliers from the Manhattan apartment that she and her husband sold three years ago. The apartment on Park Avenue went for just over $10 million.
Now Lady Black – who as a journalist wrote under the name of Barbara Amiel – is named in court documents for improperly removing the chandeliers and other items from the apartment before the new owners moved in.
All the items are listed in a lawsuit brought by the new owners, real estate developer Martin Berman and his wife Phyllis. It is claimed the chandeliers were included in an inventory before the deal was made.
The broker who handled the deal, in a deposition filed in New York, said there were several items that disappeared that were not supposed to have been taken.
“I was surprised to see how much had been taken,” said Patricia Patterson of Sothebys.
Lord Black put the apartment up for sale three years ago to help pay some of his legal bills in connection with his own problems in the Hollinger case, although federal authorities seized the proceeds to cover the bail that was set by a Chicago court.
Sothebys claims it is still waiting for its $557,000 commission.
It has been reported that Lord Black originally acquired the apartment in a “sweetheart” insider deal with Hollinger International in 2000 for a bargain $3 million. He claims that he subsequently spent $2 million in improvements.
Meanwhile, some observers who have covered Lord Black’s trial from the start believe the US government has not made a convincing case against him. They believe the jury – made up largely of Chicago working class – is still confused.
Lord Black’s former deputy, David Radler, was the star witness this week. He has admitted that two years ago he reached an agreement in Canada to testify in return for a 29-month sentence, which can be reduced to as little as six months for people involved in non-violent crimes.
Additionally, whatever time he serves could be at one of Canada’s “country club” jails which have golf courses among their amenities. In court this week, Radler said:” As a non-golfer it won’t help me.” That provoked some laughter.
By comparison, if found guilty, Lord Black – who gave up his Canadian citizenship when he was offered a British peerage – could face up to 20 years in an American prison.