BUSINESS

Conrad Black breaks silence for first time since being released from prison

05/17/2012 10:19 EDT | Updated 07/17/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Conrad Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel, have broken their silence for the first time since the fallen media magnate was released from a U.S. prison this month.

The couple have used separate forums to talk about Black's final days behind bars serving his sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice and his first couple of weeks on the outside.

Black gave an interview to CBC Television while Amiel wrote an essay in this week's Maclean's magazine.

In an excerpt of the CBC interview, which aired Thursday night, Black denied getting special treatment in being granted a one-year temporary resident permit by the federal government.

The governing Conservatives were blasted by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who accused them in the House of Commons of giving preferential treatment to a "British criminal."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the decision was left in the hands of public servants and Black said he "deliberately had absolutely no contact, direct or indirect, with anyone.”

”Yes, at times in the past I’ve know the prime minister and the minister of immigration and a number of other prominent members of the government," he told the CBC, which is to broadcast the full interview Monday night.

"I said, `we will no make no overture to them at all, they must have absolute ability to deny that there has been any political contact whatsoever' and there was none."

Amiel wrote in Maclean's that the political firestorm was enough to spook Black in his final days behind bars. She said he feared the government would cave to public pressure.

"A frantic Conrad managed to get to the prison telephone at 6:05 a.m. and called my dedicated black Samsung whose number is programmed into the prison computer. ‘I haven’t slept at all. The government will fold,’ he said. ‘They are going to withdraw my (Temporary Resident Permit). . . . ‘I’m taking my blood pressure pills but I don’t know how much more of this I can take before I have a stroke,’ " Amiel wrote.

"When Conrad worries about a stroke you know he is in difficulty."

Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to accept a British peerage, though he indicated before his release he wanted to return to Canada and live in his Toronto home.

Black was sent to jail in 2007 for convictions related to his business dealings at the helm of newspaper giant Hollinger Inc. The four-month trial focused on the complaints of shareholders, who said they had been swindled out of $6.1 million.

He appealed the convictions and succeeded in having two fraud counts thrown out and his sentence reduced to 42 months.

Amiel wrote that Black's first words to her upon his release this month were: "My brave, sweet duck, the night is over."

Black is slowly getting used to life on the outside and is regaining his health, she added.

"He hasn’t got back enough strength in his leg yet to easily walk the dogs any length of time but that will come," she wrote.

"I had to remind him how to use a Toronto telephone and how to drive a keyless car. It’s all new."