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By Phil Helsel, Associated Press and Reuters
President Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned former newspaper mogul Conrad Black, who was convicted in 2007 on charges that he swindled shareholders in his media empire out of $6 million, the White House announced.
Black was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in 2007, and a federal judge at sentencing said the millionaire member of the British House of Lords violated his duty to Hollinger International shareholders, the Associated Press reported at the time. Black was found guilty of three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice for spiriting documents out of his Toronto office in defiance of a court order.
The Supreme Court weakened a federal law used to convict him and an appeals court voided two of three fraud counts against him, and he was ultimately sentenced to 3½ years, Reuters reported. The charges stemmed from Black embezzling funds during the sale of some of Hollinger International’s publishing assets.
Black, 74, was released in May of 2012, according to federal prison records. Trump signed an executive grant of clemency, which the White House said amounted to a full pardon.
The White House called Black “an entrepreneur and scholar” who has “made tremendous contributions to business, as well as to political and historical thought.”
The White House statement noted that Black wrote several biographies. It also said that while in prison he served as a tutor for 150 students.
The White House statement did not mention that Black wrote what was described as a flattering biography of Trump published in 2018, titled “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.”
Black wrote in a column published online Wednesday on Canada’s National Post newspaper website that he had not spoken to Trump since he took office.
Black wrote in the column that his office received a call from the White House and he suspected it was a prank, but Trump was on the line.
“He could not have been more gracious and quickly got to his point: he was granting me a full pardon that would ‘Expunge the bad wrap you got,'” Black wrote, misspelling rap.
Black said in an interview with Canada’s CTV Wednesday night that it was “an unjust verdict that should never have been charged” and he said the pardon was gratifying.
Black also said he does not believe his book played any role in the president’s decision.
“I have no reason to believe he’s read it, and he’s never mentioned it to me,” Black told CTV. “… I wouldn’t know if he’d even laid eyes on it. So for that, absolutely nothing. I take him at his word that his motive was what he said it was.”
In the National Post column, Black wrote: “My long ordeal with the U.S. justice system was never anything but a confluence of unlucky events, the belligerence of several corporate governance charlatans, and grandstanding local and American judges, all fanned by an unusually frenzied international media showing exceptional interest in the case because I was a media owner.”
Black also claimed in the column that Trump “followed the case closely and offered to come to give evidence at my trial in Chicago in 2007 on one of the counts (I was acquitted of that one).”
Hollinger International was one of the biggest newspaper publishers in the world, and included such publications as the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Jerusalem Post and the National Post in Canada.