Conrad Black swaps prison for Palm Beach mansion

Former Telegraph owner Conrad Black has swapped Coleman Federal Prison in Florida for his Palm Beach mansion as he was released on bail.

He left without being spotted by reporters but was later pictured arriving at his beach front house in the back of an SUV (see above). He now awaits a decision on whether his 2007 conviction for defrauding the shareholders of Hollinger International will be overturned.

He was convicted of swindling Hollinger Internationl out of $6.1m but was acquitted of nine other counts, including racketeering. He has so far served two years of a six and a half year sentence.

Black’s release follows a victory for him at the US Supreme Court which criticised the federal law he was convicted under. The case has now been sent back to the lower courts.

Black bought-in to the Telegraph in 1985 and was forced to quit as chairman of parent company Hollinger International in December 2003 when he became mired in fraud allegations.

The Telegraph titles, plus The Spectator, were then sold by Hollinger to the Barclay brothers for £665m in August 2004.

In February 2007, Black filed a libel suit seeking $11m from British journalist Tom Bower over his book Conrad and Lady Black – Dancing on the Edge. Black described it as “vindictive, high-handed, contemptuous, sadistic” and “pathologically mendacious”. It remains to be seen whether Black will renew this case if the charges against him are dropped.

Black’s prosecution for fraud garnered little sympathy from journalists on the ground at the Telegraph titles. At the time he was alleged to have pilfered millions from the company coffers, journalists were subjected to a pay freeze and also had their subsidised canteen closed.

Telegraph Group NUJ spokesman John Carey told Press Gazette: “I don’t think anyone is going to be desperately upset or indeed surprised.

“Years ago, before anyone else was questioning Black’s activities, individual journalists were asking questions about where the profits were going.

‘Why weren’t the same questions being asked by the then directors of Telegraph Group?

“We knew huge profits were being taken but there was no investment in the sort of things we needed.”

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