Conrad Black and his wife Barbara Amiel leave federal court in Chicago, June 24, 2011.
Credits: REUTERS/John Gress
MIAMI -- So much for Conrad Black's easy escape from his American hosts.
Turns out there's more red tape to unravel for the former blue blood.
Lord Black of Crossharbour is slated to leave the Federal Prison Miami Friday after serving 85% of his 42-month sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice convictions stemming from his days at the helm of Hollinger Inc.
But any thought of a slick plan to walk out the front door and onto a jet at the airport may have hit a roadblock with the announcement that U.S. Immigration have a right to put a hold on him by first taking him into custody.
Those close to Black had believed he would be escorted from the prison and safely put on a plane. He would then be free to embark on his next chapter as a free man who has served his time.
But first there is a process here and more bureaucracy.
Not so fast, my Lord!
Turns out this place is easy to get into but much harder to get out of.
It's kind of an American version of the Black Bloc. There is talk he could be taken to an immigration holding centre south of here, near the Everglades, for assessment before heading home.
However, an employee of the prison said that process could simply involve immigration people taking him to the airport.
It will be clearer sometime Friday.
In the meantime, more media are arriving here and the modern prison has been clear that there will be no reporters or camera people on the property. The security has been professional and courteous.
The mystery of just where Black is or will end up is just one of the interesting stories.
The whereabouts of his wife, Barbara Amiel, is unclear. Several sources say she is in Toronto waiting for her husband's return. There is also a theory she is in Miami and will travel home with her husband. There has been no sighting of her here, though.
The other fascinating player in this story who has remained silent is his former sidekick-turned-rat David Radler. His sentence in exchange for testimony against his longtime friend and business partner was served long ago. Doubtless he is following Black's release from prison with interest.
The sideshow in Ottawa of opposition calling government officials racist for granting the permit is beyond the pale since there are said to be 10,000 granted each year. Black has served his time as laid out by the U.S. justice system. If murderer and terrorist Omar Khadr is welcomed home, so should Black.
Meanwhile, it's a game of cat and mouse.
The plan is to wait and try to get a glimpse of Black when he drives by. The problem is he may be in a government vehicle and many have tinted windows.
It's unknown if he had any visitors Thursday but a guard, seated in front of a smiling picture of President Barack Obama, said he was entitled to.
During visiting hours here many fancy cars were seen coming and going from this minimum-security institution, which houses mostly white-collar convicts but was once home to Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega.
There was no sign of anyone with a connection to Black.
While this institution has a major barbed wire sector, it also has an open concept sports area with a baseball diamond, soccer field and basketball nets.
There is also a massive weight room and gymnasium area -- which was packed with inmates Thursday.
The entrance to the prison, lined with inviting palm trees, looks like something out of Black's old neighbourhood in Palm Beach, Fla.
Upon closer scrutiny, it is very secure and airtight.
While some prisoners are escorted in between the buildings, others freely walk back and forth.
There were also several men wearing prison white and caps who fit his description going to and from buildings on the compound but it was difficult to confirm if any could have been Black.
Even though he is technically not free until Saturday, he should be released Friday.
So where's he going? There are some floating the possibility he could be deported first to Great Britain but a friend of Black's said it's more likely the U.S. authorities will honour the one-year residency paperwork Black has been granted in Canada and he will be permitted to return to the land of his birth.
Black will find out very soon if his time as a "guest" here, courtesy of the United States government, is over.