Lord Ta-Ta and the Magic Disappearing Money

Oh, too bad. Oh, so sad. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m GLAD Conrad Black can’t come back to Canada!

Conrad Black cannot leave the US while he awaits sentencing for fraud and obstructing justice, a judge has ruled.

Canadian-born media tycoon Black was found guilty last month in Chicago of swindling shareholders while running newspaper firm Hollinger International.

He had asked to return to his Toronto home until 30 November, when he could be jailed for up to 35 years.

But Judge Amy St Eve said she thought Black would try to stay in his native country and fight extradition.


Ah, Judge St. Eve…was ever anyone more worthy of the title “Your Honor”? I kneel and kiss the hem of your judicial robe, madame justice.

And here is why:

Conrad Black was barred from returning to Canada during a bizarre day in court yesterday that saw an Israeli private investigator allege the former newspaper baron has secretly funnelled some $60 million to a number of offshore bank accounts.

Judge Amy St. Eve ordered Black to remain in either Illinois or Palm Beach, Florida, where he owns a $35 million (U.S.) seaside mansion.

The same day, Toronto’s Hollinger Inc., the centrepiece of Black’s former newspaper empire, filed for bankruptcy protection, after settling various class-action lawsuits related to allegations of corporate mismanagement.

The judge said she denied Black’s request to return to Canada because his lawyer Edward Greenspan failed to allay her concern that Black, who has pledged to be at a Nov. 30 sentencing hearing, might change his mind and fight extradition. “With no additional assets and the uncertainty of the extradition process, I am not convinced that you have met your burden,” St. Eve told Black and his legal team.

This by-the-book judge was prudent to say what she did; it means Black has no “out” now. Going strictly by the letter of the law, she picked the safest reason to bar him from coming back here and fighting extradition (and shaming us as a nation in so doing). But if the Israeli PI‘s allegations prove true, and Blackie does have several more million salted away in the Bahamas (or wherever), it means he is undoubtedly a flight risk. After all, it would make sense for him to decamp to wherever he’s got that money stashed, and it doesn’t matter where his British passport is. For all we know, he has other ones–from all the places where he’s doing his secret banking.

Onwards…

While St. Eve said it didn’t factor in her decision to thwart Black’s attempts to return to Canada, private investigator Juval Aviv’s report took centre stage through much of yesterday’s 90-minute hearing.

The investigator claims to be a former Israeli commando and secret-service agent. He now heads Interfor Inc., an international corporate intelligence and investigations company based in New York.

Aviv’s report on Black’s finances was prepared last fall. It was introduced in court yesterday when Black requested to return to Canada to await his sentencing hearing in November after being convicted of fraud and obstruction.

In an affidavit signed July 26, Aviv claimed he had been hired in September 2006 by Toronto law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg to “conduct an in-depth asset investigation of Conrad Black and his related companies.” The law firm is known to act for Hollinger Inc.

Aviv said in his court filing that he has “developed and interviewed sources close to `the target’ and his family as well as sources who assisted `the target’ with his finances.”

Aviv, whose spokesman declined to comment when contacted yesterday, alleged Black has moved at least 40 million Euros ($60 million Cdn) since 2005 from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. to bank accounts in Gibraltar. The funds, Aviv alleged, have been transferred through financial institutions in Luxembourg, the Caribbean, the U.K. and the Channel Islands.

Aviv said at the time of his hiring, he was advised of three of Black’s accounts, one with the National Westminister Bank in Jersey in the Channel Islands. One was under the name Black Amiel Management Inc. and the other, Moffatt Management Inc., was in Barbados.

Aviv wrote, “I have determined that Conrad Black has continued to transfer millions of dollars between his accounts outside North America since Sept. 29, 2006.”

I sure hope Aviv has written evidence of everything he’s alleging, because this is explosive stuff, and Black has the most notorious (and narcoleptic?) defence attorney in Canada on his team.

Meanwhile, Hollinger has filed for bankruptcy protection, which means no money for anyone Black ripped off…unless, of course, all that offshore cash can be verified. In which case, it would be jolly good fun to see it seized and returned to its rightful owners, what?

Incidentally, $60 million is exactly the amount that Hollinger International has accused Black of stealing. What an odd little coincidence!

The Conrad Black file at the Toronto Star is ever growing, an there are many little gems in it. So, if you’re up for a little light reading, I recommend an oldie-but goodie, The Temptress and the Bore. My favorite passage is this one:

Amiel, on the other hand, is the preternaturally young (she turns 66 next month), impossibly chic temptress. It is Amiel’s lusting relationship with Manolo Blahnik shoes and her delayed love of spectacular jewels — not to mention private jets and San Simeonesque real estate — that has lured Black down a much more profligate path than he would have otherwise travelled. Or so one theory goes.

And as she has made her career as a journalist, she has, like Little Red Riding Hood, left a trail of breadcrumbs against which Bower can attempt to judge her. And so she writes of the tax conviction and prison term meted out to Leona Helmsley, the New York hotelier oft referred to as The Queen of Mean. “Even after you’ve paid £38 million ($82 million) in taxes as she did, the impulse to withhold that last £678,000 ($1.45 million) cannot be alien to any of us,” wrote Amiel. “Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to see the distinction between personal and business expenditure.”

Bower documents the Blacks wall-to-wall lavishness, from the refurbishment of homes in London and Manhattan and Palm Beach — replete, writes Bower, with a $4.4-million elevator — to the infamous getaway in Bora Bora. “On the journey they ate with silverware recently purchased at Hollinger’s expense for $3,530. The total cost of the flights was $530,000. Half was charged to Hollinger.” In Bower’s account, Amiel is consistently embarrassed by anything less but the very best, turning to her mate in one scene and snapping, “Why haven’t we got a helicopter, Conrad?”

And Bower casts her as frequently, and nastily, ill-tempered, screaming, he writes, at her senior butler: “Andrew! The towels are in the wrong place!”

This recalls Leona Helmsley foaming over water droplets on the lettuce, Martha Stewart excoriating her husband for failing to stack firewood with precision and Joan Crawford’s murderous anger should anyone make the mistake of placing a wire hanger in her closet.

It is, writes Bower, Andrew the butler who would take new household staff up to the roof of the home at Cottesmore Gardens in London. “Make sure the landing lights are on at all times,” the butler would instruct, “because Madame takes off from here on her broomstick looking for cats. She needs the lights to guide her return.”

Small nit to pick: “Replete with $4.4 million elevator” is wrong. It should read “complete”. “Replete” means “full”–and whoever could live in a mansion that was all full of elevator?

Well, all right…except for queens-of-mean who fly on their Nimbus 2000s o’ nights scouring the streets of London for cats, and who have trouble distinguishing between business and personal expenditures. Just as their men have trouble distinguishing between company and personal money.

(Other nit: It was Hansel and Gretel, not Little Red Riding Hood, who left a tr
ail of breadcrumbs. Get your fairy tales straight, you sloppy book reviewer!)

I guess Bitchy Babs isn’t flying so high now. Neither is Lord Ta-Ta.

Pity…(she wrote, dripping huge crocodile tears…)

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2 Responses to Lord Ta-Ta and the Magic Disappearing Money

  1. Tim says:

    Yes, very tragic – poor Connie and Babs. 😉
    on a related subject of tragedy – happy four, oh. 🙂

  2. Slave Revolt says:

    Wow, what kleptocratic proclivities these bums have!
    Really, they could have lead a lavish life within their sorid crapitalist means–but such is the problem with capitalism unhinged, desire and greed are bottomless pits of pestilence and parasitism. With nobody to check their greed, they simply when over board.
    Guess he will have to tough it out in his 35 million dollar mansion in Palm Beach before he is sentenced.
    The woman, the ‘fem-fatal’, god forbid that we see her turning tricks in some upscale nursing home for diamond wedding rings that used to belong to departed wifes of the rich.
    Scary fuckers, for sure.

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