Conrad Black will be in Britain this week to promote his book, pursue some commercial ventures and make an appearance on a comedy television program that’s famous for pillorying figures just like Lord Black.
The long-running BBC program Have I Got News For You involves a pair of comedians and guest panelists who quiz celebrity guests on the week’s top news stories. Among those who have been on the show over the years are author Germaine Greer, London Mayor Boris Johnson, former Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock and Britain’s current foreign minister, William Hague.
Lord Black will be on the program Friday, but in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail he said the main purpose of his trip is the British launch of A Matter of Principle , which outlines Lord Black’s prolonged legal battle in the United States over his conviction for fraud and obstruction of justice.
“My U.K. publisher’s publicity agent was asked if I would do that show while there. The terminal narcissism of the London media has created this idea that I’m going there for that,” he said. The trip is for “commercial reasons and to launch the book while there, (as my next book, on the strategic history of the United States) is almost ready to go.”
Lord Black, who is a British citizen, said he renewed his British passport a year ago and has not had much trouble travelling.
“I am welcome everywhere except the U.S., which is now the country I would least like to visit, though doubtless that will change,” he said.
This is believed to be his first visit to London since being released from a Florida prison last spring after serving 37 months. His return has prompted excitement in the British press. On Sunday The Daily Mail devoted a lengthy article to Lord Black’s visit and his appearance on the TV show.
“I’m not afraid, I assure you,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “I’ve been around the track a good many times. They can be as brutal as they want and I’ll feel fully licensed to reciprocate.”
He also said: “If they want to start slinging the mud around, they’ll get it back in their faces.”
He added that he plans to buy a house in London at some point and even return to the House of Lords one day.
In his e-mail to The Globe, Lord Black didn’t elaborate on what business opportunities he has in Britain, but he has indicated he will not get involved in a publicly-traded company again. “I will not deal with regulators or ratings agencies ever again,” he told the Daily Mail.
Lord Black was convicted in 2007 of fraud and obstruction of justice over the misappropriation of money at his Chicago-based newspaper company Hollinger International Inc. He returned to Toronto last spring after his release, and is living in Canada on a temporary resident permit.
Lord Black’s book outlines his prolonged legal battle in the U.S., which is still ongoing. He went on trial in Chicago in 2007 facing a 13-count criminal indictment and a jury convicted him of three fraud counts and one count of obstruction of justice. Two fraud convictions were later reversed after several appeals by Lord Black including one to the U.S. Supreme Court which led to a revision of the U.S. fraud statute.
He recently launched another action in Chicago to have his remaining convictions reversed, arguing prosecutors violated his constitutional rights and used invalid warrants in 2005 to seize nearly $9-million from the sale of his apartment in New York. Lord Black argues he intended to use that money to pay for lawyers to represent him in the criminal case. “Mr. Black is still suffering from considerable ongoing harm based on an invalid conviction due to governmental misconduct of such constitutional magnitude that it requires redress,” his lawyers argued in a recent filing.