Hong Kong: The Hong Kong-based owner of Birmingham City football club was charged Thursday with five counts of money laundering involving more than 720 million Hong Kong dollars (USD 92 million).
Carson Yeung, who bought Birmingham two years ago for 81.5 million pounds (USD 131 million), appeared in court to face the charges of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense. The charges involve sums of money deposited in bank accounts from January 2001 to December 2007, according to a charge sheet.
Yeung was granted bail but ordered to surrender his travel documents and not allowed to leave Hong Kong.
Hong Kong police referred inquiries about Yeung's arrest to a statement which only confirmed that a 51-year-old man was arrested Wednesday.
Narcotics Bureau officers searched two locations and seized some documents, the statement said.
Yeung was arrested after police officers went to his home in an upscale neighborhood Wednesday, the Hong Kong Standard newspaper reported.
Birmingham City's acting chairman Peter Pannu said in a statement posted on the team's website that Yeung is assisting police with the investigation of "certain criminal activities" but he believes they do not have any connection "to the operation of the parent company or any of its subsidiaries."
Yeung said when he bought Birmingham in 2009 that he hoped to build up the team's fan base in China and generate new sources of revenue. He also pledged to strengthen the squad by investing up to 40 million pounds (USD 64.4 million) for the January transfer window.
Yeung was a little-known Hong Kong businessman prior to his takeover of Birmingham. His previous experience with professional football was limited to a stint as chairman of Hong Kong Rangers Football Club in 2005-06. He also worked as a hairdresser, invested in a Macau casino and has a stake in a Hong Kong newspaper, local media reports said.
Pannu said lawyers for parent Birmingham International Holdings Ltd., which Yeung is chairman of, informed him that the investigation has "nothing to do with the operation of the club, and relate to other matters."
Birmingham's 48-year wait for a title ended in February after winning the League Cup but the team was relegated from the English Premier League in May following a defeat in its last match at Tottenham.
Shares of Hong Kong-listed Birmingham International, in which Yeung has a 26 percent stake, have been suspended from trading. No reason was given and no one at the company was available to comment. The company, which is registered in the Cayman Islands, is also involved in apparel sourcing and trading ,and entertainment and media services.
The case was adjourned until Aug. 11.
First Published: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 13:37