Lord Conrad Black, the former newspaper tycoon who renounced his Canadian citizenship in favour of a British peerage, has squeezed more time to prepare his defence against charges of fraud.

The arraignment relates to His Lordship's tenure as chairman and ceo of US newspaper group Hollinger International, during which period he and his henchmen allegedly "looted" $83.8 million (€71.4m; £48.9m) of shareholder funds.

Black and two co-defendants - Jack Boultbee and Peter Atkinson - were due to appear before a US court yesterday (Tuesday) to face eleven counts of fraud in a 60-page indictment. Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years plus a $250,000 fine.

But to the dismay of the waiting media hordes, the elusive trio remain firmly north of the 49th parallel, beyond the reach of the US Justice Department until such time as they voluntarily cross the border or are extradited - a lengthy process.

According to assistant US attorney Robert Kent, it was not until Monday night that prosecutors learned the peer was intending to absent himself and play for time. "Mr Black is in the process of deciding who will represent him before the court," Kent told Judge Amy St Eve.

"We expect Mr Black to be here [next week] and we are hopeful that Mr Boultbee and Mr Atkinson will appear, the frustrated lawman informed the court - crossing his fingers behind his back.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff