Prisoner no. 18330-424 is scheduled for release Friday from the low-security Federal Correctional Institution near Miami.
Now the question is how promptly Conrad Black will be able to return to Canada since he renounced his Canadian citizenship and has since acquired a criminal record for fraud.
As noted in a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision, Lord Black’s return would not be automatic.
“Lord Black will not be able to enter Canada without the special permission of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration even once he has finished serving his sentence,” the highest court said in an April 18 decision.
A government official said Monday that the court wasn’t referring specifically to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and that it will be bureaucrats in his department who will decide whether Lord Black gets a dispensation.
Immediately after Lord Black’s fraud conviction in 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said there would be no political interference in handling the media baron’s eventual return.
There would be no “preferential treatment,” a government official said at the time.
The 67-year-old Lord Black already has an engagement in Toronto this spring.
A Matter of Principle, his memoir of his indictment and trial was one of three books nominated for this year’s National Business Book Award and the winner will be announced May 28 during a luncheon at a downtown hotel.
Land records show that Lord Black remains the owner of a property in Toronto's exclusive Bridle Path neighbourhood.
In interviews last fall with some media outlets, including the Globe and Mail, Lord Black had said he expects to move back to Toronto after his release from prison.
“All I’m seeking at this point is temporary residence status ... I intend to [seek citizenship]some time, as long as there isn’t going to be controversy. I don’t want any more nonsensical controversy over things like that.”
People who renounced their citizenship have to live in Canada as a permanent resident for at least a year before they can reapply.
It has been more than the three years since Lord Black was convicted of a criminal offence, the delay required before one can reapply for citizenship.
Without commenting specifically on Lord Black’s case, the Canada Border Services Agency says most criminal convictions make people inadmissible to enter and stay in Canada.
People with “previous criminality” need to apply for a rehabilitation before they can be admissible for permanent residency to Canada – but they have to wait five years after the completion of their sentence, the CBSA said in an e-mail replying to Globe questions.
His troubles started in 2001 when he gave up his Canadian citizenship after the prime minister at the time, Jean Chrétien, refused to allow him to accept a British peerage in Britain’s House of Lords.
Lord Black was convicted in the United States of fraud in 2007. After he exhausted all of his appeals, he was resentenced last year to 42 months and returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
His release date was scheduled for Saturday, May 5, but he will be let out on Friday.
The April 18 Supreme Court ruling dealt with Lord Black’s libel suits against advisers or directors of his former media company, Hollinger International Inc.
The Supreme Court ruled that he had the right to sue defendants such as former U.S. Securities and Exchange head Richard Breeden and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Canada, though a settlement has already been reached.