LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Conrad Black’s biographer, Tom Bower, writes on the conviction of the man who he longed believed to be a crook and charlatan, but still likes.
As the first guilty verdict was read out to the crowded courtroom by the judge on Friday, Conrad Black’s eyes closed, his head fell and his mouth opened in a silent gasp.
Without glancing at Barbara Amiel, his wife, who was sitting close by, Lord Black of Crosshar-bour looked distraught as the verdicts continued. Convicted of obstruction of justice and three counts of fraud, he realised that his biggest battle was finally lost.
Henceforth the former owner of The Daily Telegraph would be damned as a felon alongside Robert Maxwell, the late proprietor of the Daily Mirror. Black knew that his arrogance and deceit would, if the prosecutors’ sentencing demands were met, be punished by least 15 years’ imprisonment.
Ten minutes after the first guilty verdict was announced, Amiel leant forward and passed her husband a note. Redeyed, he scribbled a reply and sat motionless. Finally, the man who thought that the truth could be concealed by lies had been exposed as a charlatan.
Just minutes later he glanced across at me, yards away. His battle to suppress the truth in my biography of him had shuddered to a halt. Like so many of his prophesies, his e-mail to me in April 2006 saying, “I promise a spectacular trial”, had been hot air. His lifetime of threats and writs was abruptly curtailed.
Strangely our relationship had been civil until the book’s publication. I had been thrilled when an e-mail unexpectedly arrived from him at 1.15am on April 1, 2006.
Black, whom I had known since the mid1980s, was well aware of my book’s progress. He wrote that he had been contacted by acquaintances seeking advice as to whether they should talk to me. His response was nothing if not graphic: “Dear Tom, “Many people have contacted Barbara and me asking if they should talk with you. Our usual response is that you have made it clear that you consider this whole matter a heart-warming story of two sleazy, spivvy, contemptible people, who enjoyed a fraudulent and unjust elevation; were exposed, and ground to powder in a just system, have been ostra-cised; and largely impoverished, and that I am on my way to the prison cell where I belong. It is the false rise and well-deserved downfall of crooked charlatans; a variant on your treatments of Maxwell and Rowland. You have expressed essentially this view many times that have been reported to me.”