Former press baron Lord Conrad Black has been indicted on fraud charges in the US.

The British peer, who renounced his Canadian citizenship to sit in the UK's upper legislative chamber the House of Lords, has been accused by federal authorities of stealing $51.8 million (€44.2m; £30.1m) from Chicago-headquartered newspaper publishing firm Hollinger International from which he was ousted as ceo in 2003.

He and three former execs are accused of having cheated both H-Intl's US and Canadian shareholders, and tax authorities in Canada by diverting funds to themselves. Among the instances cited are Black and his wife hiring a private jet to a South Pacific island and $40,000 spent on a birthday party.

Black, the former owner of UK quality papers, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, is already facing a civil case brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [WAMN: 16-Nov-04].

Former H-Intl president and publisher David Radler, Black's long-time close associate, was charged in August of being part of a scheme to divert $32m from the company. He has admitted a single count of mail fraud and agreed to co-operate and testify against others involved.

Lawyers for the peer issued a statement denying all the charges: "Conrad Black asserts his innocence without qualification with respect to each and every one of the charges set forth in the indictment. It will be shown that he has, at all times, acted within the law. He is confident that, if given a full and fair opportunity to defend himself, he will be found innocent."

He is believed to be in his native Canada. US prosecutors say if he fails to make a voluntary appearance at the federal court in Chicago, they will seek his extradition.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff