In the dying days of the woeful George Bush administration, former NSW premier Bob Carr wrote to the White House asking for a presidential pardon to be granted to the convicted corporate fraudster Conrad Black.

Lord Black looted his company Hollinger Corporation which had owned a string of newspapers in Canada (National Post), US (Chicago Sun-Times), UK (The Daily Telegraph), Israel (The Jerusalem Post) and Australia (The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review).

He is now serving six and a half years in the slammer for embezzling $6.1m from his Hollinger media empire.

His arrogant larceny included billing Hollinger $62,000 for wife Barbara Amiel’s 60th birthday party in December 2000; using a corporate jet for a private holiday with Amiel in August 2001; and charging thousands of dollars to Hollinger for Amiel’s handbags and opera tickets.

But Carr appears to have been unmoved by the Canadian crook’s pillaging of shareholders’ money and wrote a private letter to Bush appealing for Black’s freedom.

“I made the point that he’d done some serious work on American history,” Carr bubbled on the ABC. “I said that he’d written two big books on American history — a book on (Franklin D.) Roosevelt and a book on (Richard) Nixon — and I said that he’s paid the price for his wrongdoings, his white-collar crimes.”

During his 10-year premiership Carr was known as “Maximum Bob” for his vicious law and order policies but he has obviously mellowed since joining the private sector fulltime.

Black’s two presidential biographies are unbearably turgid and virtually unreadable because of Black’s billowing pomposities.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom published in 2003 is a windy 1,280 pages long and Richard M Nixon: A Life in Full published in 2007 is a 1,152-page door-stopper.

While researching his Roosevelt book, Black used Hollinger money to purchase a set of FDR’s personal papers for $8US million.

According to the New York Times: “The board did not ask for an independent valuation of the papers’ market value before signing off on the deal in December 2002, nearly two years after the purchase.”

The seller had acquired the papers less than a year before Black bought them for $3.5 USmillion.

The only estimate of their value was supplied by the seller who judged the collection to be worth between $12US million and $14US million. But he would wouldn’t he? There is no record that he complained about the price paid by Hollinger which delivered him a cool profit of $4.5 US million.

In the event, Bush did not use his presidential pardon power to wipe the convictions of Black or anyone else.

The mystery remains: with political prisoners and prisoners of conscience languishing in jails across the world, why would the former Labor premier of NSW, now a highly paid consultant with Macquarie Bank, appeal for the freedom of such an undeserving swindler as Conrad Moffat Black, Baron of Crossharbour and head of Hollinger’s “corporate kleptocracy”?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey