US prosecutors are demanding that Lord Conrad Black - currently awaiting trial on charges of looting millions of dollars from Hollinger International - either lodges an additional $6 million (€4.75m; £3.24m) to secure his existing $20m bond or forfeits bail and goes to prison.

His Lordship, however, pleads he can't lay hands on that kind of money. Judge Amy St Eve of US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is unconvinced by Black's plea and last week invited him to explain how he manages to maintain his champagne lifestyle on a purported beer income.

One explanation that may not have occurred to Her Honor is that Black is practicing the mediaeval art of alchemy - the process by which base metals are magically converted into gold - in order to eke out his regal existence.

His six-and-a-half acre Toronto estate is currently costing Black $95,000 a month in mortgage and property-tax payments. Gardening bills alone come to $7,900, while the whole shebang is valued by Ontario tax assessors at US$7.56 million.

Prosecutors argue that Black has violated the conditions of his bail bond by failing to disclose all of his income and by misrepresenting the value of his assets.

The Canadian-British peer told the Wall Street Journal that the prosecution's allegations of failing to give an accurate picture of his finances "are bunk."

In an email responding to a request for comment, Black added: "I have made full disclosure at every stage . . . We will have no difficulty answering the judge's questions."

Judge St Eve will rule on the bail issue later this week.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff