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The Globe and Mail

Conrad Black arrives in Toronto after release from prison

Conrad Black is shown leaving Federal Court on July 23, 2010, in Chicago.


Arriving home after years in prison, former media baron Conrad Black walked briefly among the flowering trees with his wife, Barbara Amiel, and was greeted by two dogs at their posh Toronto house.

The two kissed before entering the house. One of the dogs remained a few minutes longer on the grounds, rushing over to the fence to bark at the assembled journalists.

Lord Black, who was released this morning from custody in Miami, did not speak to the waiting media.

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Ms. Amiel emerged about two hours after the couple arrived home, trying to corral the dogs who had again gone to bark at the assembled media. She didn't say much.

"I'm very happy, it's not been easy," Ms. Amiel said. "You don't celebrate after something like this, we're just going to stay home."

Neighbours were generally amused by the fuss, a few cracking jokes about "Conrad" and "the felon." Another disparaged the reporters as "vultures" and warned them to stay away from his property.

Many voiced support for Lord Black, saying he was an impressive figure who was badly treated.

"I'd welcome him back to the neighbourhood," said Nigel Aplin, who described a gracious encounter years ago while the two were cycling. "I think he's a very distinguished author and I think he's an important Canadian. I'm happy to see him back in the country."

Navin Chandaria, another local resident, said Mr. Black had "paid his price" and should be allowed to resume Canadian citizenship and live in peace. He was looking forward to welcoming him back to the area.

"Absolutely, he's my neighbour," said Mr. Chandaria, who described meeting Mr. Black "several" times at parties. "He didn't murder anybody. It's only a business thing."

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Lord Black, who was convicted for fraud and obstruction of justice, was reportedly taken straight to the airport by U.S. immigration officials after his release from a Florida prison Friday.

He was picked up at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution near Miami by U.S. immigration officials around 8:30 a.m. Placed in a vehicle with tinted windows, his face wasn't visible to any cameras.

An immigration detainer had been placed on the former head of Hollinger International. It was expected that he was going to be driven to a detention centre and booked for deportation. But it appears Lord Black was driven straight to the Miami International Airport. A worker with the Krome Detention Center told reporters he was scheduled to take a charter flight, though immigration officials did not confirm that Lord Black was taken to the airport.

Prison and immigration officials revealed few other details, citing privacy laws and security policies.

Lord Black had been housed at the Federal Correctional Institution near Miami since September.

The former media baron had served the first part of his 42-month sentence in another, more remote, Florida prison. But after he exhausted his appeals and was ordered back behind bars last year to complete his sentence, Lord Black was sent to the Miami-area prison instead because two female prison workers at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex contended they feared for their safety, he told reporters last fall.

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The women – a prison unit manager and an education specialist – had in affidavits suggested that Lord Black wasn't a model prisoner in Coleman, saying he asked for special treatment from staff and had inmates cook, clean and iron clothes for him "like servants." His lawyers refuted their claims.

Lord Black and his wife own a house in Toronto's exclusive Bridle Path neighbourhood. Many of Lord Black's friends in Canada were eagerly awaiting his return.

In March, the Canadian Department of Citizenship and Immigration granted Lord Black a one-year temporary resident permit, valid until early May, 2013.

While prison time is now behind him, Lord Black still faces serious troubles that could leave him emotionally and financially depleted, including an ailing wife and a $70-million bill from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

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