Birmingham City HK owner in court for money-laundering

30 June 2011 07:30

Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung, a one-time hairdresser turned football tycoon, appeared in court in Hong Kong Thursday charged with money-laundering, a day after being arrested by police.

A sombre-looking Yeung, 51, was driven in a police van to the magistrates court, where the judge set bail at HK$7 million ($900,000) for the millionaire supremo of the club relegated from the Premier League last month.

He was expected to be released later Thursday after surrendering his passport as required as part of his bail conditions.

Police said in a statement that Yeung was arrested on Wednesday after narcotics bureau officers searched two locations and seized documents.

The charge sheet detailed "five counts of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence" but the nature of the alleged offence was not clear.

Prosecutors said investigations had revealed around HK$720 million ($92 million) passing through accounts connected with Yeung.

His lawyer, Daniel Marash, dismissed the charges against his client.

"He has two bank accounts with a lot of money in them but all they're saying is that he has got a lot of money and hasn't paid a lot of tax," he told reporters. "You cannot assume it's taxable."

He said the fact that prosecutors had declined to identify the allegedly criminal origin of the money showed the weakness of their case.

"I think if they could specify it, they would," he added.

The next hearing was set for August.

Yeung took control of Birmingham in October 2009 in an 81 million pound ($130 million) takeover from David Sullivan and David Gold, now the co-owners of West Ham.

The club revealed late on Wednesday that Yeung was assisting Hong Kong police in relation to criminal investigations.

Birmingham's acting chairman Peter Pannu insisted the inquiries did not affect the Midlands club's parent company, Birmingham International Holdings.

The company's lawyers had informed him that the police inquiries "have nothing to do with the operation of BIHL in Hong Kong and therefore nothing to do with the operation of the club, and relate to other matters", he said.

"People are reminded that in recent years members of the previous board were placed on bail for a significant amount of time and nothing came of it," Pannu added.

"I am only using this as an example to calm any fears. The law says a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"Until I find out more information about this matter there is no further comment to be made."

Birmingham were relegated from the English Premier League on the final day of last season and recently saw manager Alex McLeish quit to join arch-rivals Aston Villa, still in the top flight.

Former Newcastle manager Chris Hughton was appointed as McLeish's replacement at St Andrew's last week.

Little was known about Yeung prior to his emergence in the English game.

His name first appeared on the Hong Kong stock exchange's record books when he bought a 16.67 percent stake in clothes company Grandtop International in June 2007, which made him a major shareholder of the firm.

Through Grandtop, Yeung bought a minority stake in Birmingham City from its directors in a deal worth 15 million pounds before going on to take full control.

According to several reports, he was trained as a hairdresser in the 1990s before becoming a wealthy businessman with a fortune estimated at $300 million after successful investments in penny stocks.

He rode on the Macau gambling fever in 2004 when he co-founded Greek Mythology, a casino in the former Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong.

Source: AFP