Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham City Football Club owner Carson Yeung guilty

Carson Yeung
Image caption Carson Yeung remains Birmingham City's majority shareholder

Birmingham City Football Club owner Carson Yeung has been found guilty of five counts of money laundering by a court in Hong Kong.

The 54-year-old had denied laundering HK$720 million (£55.4m) through his bank accounts between 2001 and 2007.

Judge Douglas Yau said Yeung was "self-contradictory" in his testimony and he was "making it up as he went along".

He will be sentenced on Friday and could face 14 years in jail.

Yeung was arrested and charged in June 2011, two years after he acquired the club.

Throughout the trial, Yeung and the prosecution painted differing pictures of how his wealth had been amassed.

Yeung maintained he accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars through stock trading, business ventures in mainland China, a hair salon and a keen interest in gambling.

'Famous hairstylist'

But prosecutors said he was unable to show where almost HK$100 million (£7.7m) in his bank accounts had come from.

Judge Yau said Yeung had lied about how he made his money and exaggerated the profits generated by his hair salon business.

"I find the defendant not a witness of truth. I find that he is someone who is prepared to, and did try to, lie whenever he saw the need to do so," he told the courtroom.

He added there were reasonable grounds to believe that Yeung's various business deals had used money which represented "proceeds of an indictable offence".

Yeung bought Birmingham City in October 2009 for £81.5m from David Sullivan and David Gold, now the co-owners of West Ham.

He is the majority shareholder but resigned in February as president of Birmingham City FC, director of Birmingham City plc and director and chairman of the club's parent company, Birmingham International Holdings Ltd (BIHL).

Since he took charge, Blues have won the League Cup but have been relegated from the Barclays Premier League and are currently 17th in the Championship after losing 1-0 to Ipswich on Saturday.

In a statement, the club's acting chairman Peter Pannu said: "I'd like to reassure all supporters and staff that today's verdict will have no impact on the day-to-day operations at the football club.

"Birmingham International Holdings Limited, the holding company, shall continue to support the football club under the leadership of the group's new chairman, Mr Cheung Shing, and will work to raise further investment to support Birmingham City FC. going forward."

'Tarnished administration'

Yeung worked in the UK as a teenager before becoming a "famous" hairstylist in Hong Kong. He made his fortune investing in Macau in the 1990s and is a prominent property developer in Hong Kong.

Image caption Yeung bought Birmingham City in October 2009 for £81.5m from David Sullivan and David Gold

Kevin Ball, owner of the Birmingham FC fan website Joys and Sorrows, said: "From a personal position, I don't think he had a prudent approach to run the club, but in the first part of his tenure he gave me some of my best days as a Blues fan.

"I believe he wanted the best for the club, but I think he was naive in running the club and should have stepped away before now.

"Where we are now, the existing administration is tarnished. I hope we get sold."

A spokesman for fans' organisation the Blues Trust, said: "We hope that today's verdict marks the beginning of a new era, where we are able to put this troubling period behind us as soon as possible."

A Football League spokesman said: "Since the commencement of these criminal proceedings, the club's holding company has introduced revised arrangements to ensure that it could relist on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and comply with Football League regulations. They include the resignation of Mr Yeung from all directorships.

"The League has been working with the club... and, based on the information provided, is satisfied that Birmingham City complies with its requirements regarding ownership, as well as having funding arrangements in place until the end of the 2013-14 season, at least."

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