Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung jailed for six years

Carson Yeung resigned as president of the club in February, but remains a majority shareholder

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Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung has been jailed for six years by a Hong Kong court for money laundering.

The businessman, 54, was convicted on Monday of five charges relating to HK$720m (£55m) passing through his bank accounts between 2001 and 2007.

He claimed he had accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars through stock trading, business ventures in mainland China, a hair salon and gambling.

Judge Douglas Yau said the sentence must be a deterrent to others.

'Full force'

The former hair stylist's trial was told he had lied about how he made his money and Yeung was described by Judge Yau as "not a witness of truth".

Analysis

His was a rags to riches and, now, back to rags story.

Carson Yeung's rise from humble hairdresser to wealthy owner of a British football club has attracted much media attention.

The international press pack bore witness to his fall from grace at the end of a three-year legal case.

His legal team has declined to say whether there will be an appeal. This has been a closely watched case, coming just two years after the city introduced new laws against money laundering and terrorist financing.

It is still unclear exactly how the sentence will affect Yeung's British football club, Birmingham City.

The businessman was unable to show where almost HK$100m (£7.7m) in his bank accounts had come from.

Sentencing Yeung at Hong Kong District Court, Judge Yau said: "The sentence must include an element of deterrence to discourage those who are in a position to exploit the system.

"The law will come down on them with full force.

"Maintaining the integrity of the banking system is of paramount importance if Hong Kong is to remain an international finance centre," he said.

Police investigators, who described the case as a difficult one involving analysis of financial records from as far back as 2001, welcomed the six-year sentence.

'New era'

Gloria Yu, a police investigator, told reporters outside the courthouse: "We overcame a lot of hurdles to get this result.

"We are happy... and encouraged because fighting money laundering is a very arduous task."

The BBC's Andrew Wood in Hong Kong said it was a tough sentence, despite Yeung's lawyer asking for leniency.

Carson Yeung at Birmingham City Carson Yeung was charged with money laundering in 2011, two years after buying Birmingham City

"He'll be 60 years old [when released], assuming he doesn't come out with time for good behaviour."

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

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

Turbulent times at St Andrew's

  • October 2009 - Following an initial failed attempt in 2007, Carson Yeung completes his £81.5m takeover
  • May 2010 - Alex McLeish leads Birmingham to ninth in the Premier League
  • Feb 2011 - Birmingham beat Arsenal 2-1 to win the League Cup
  • May 2011 - Blues relegated. McLeish leaves for Aston Villa
  • June 2011 - Yeung first appears in court on money-laundering charges
  • May 2012 - Blues miss out in Championship play-offs on same day that acting chairman Peter Pannu announces they are looking to attract new investment
  • October 2012 - Pannu reveals two prospective buyers, including a consortium led by Midlands-based former QPR chairman Gianni Paladin
  • May 2013 - After an initial postponement, Yeung's trial opens in Hong Kong
  • Feb 2014 - Yeung resigns from all roles on the boards related to the club, days before verdict in his trial is due

The Hong Kong businessman was arrested and charged with money laundering two years later.

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).

His son, Ryan, 20, and brother-in-law Shui Cheong Ma, 52, remain on the club's board of directors.

Acting chairman Peter Pannu said Yeung would not run the "club by proxy" from prison through family members on the board.

On Monday, the club said Yeung's conviction would have no impact on day-to-day operations.

The Football League has said it is satisfied with the action the club's holding company has taken since the commencement of criminal proceedings.

In a separate development, the sale of 12% of the club was cancelled on Friday as the buyer, a Chinese media firm, failed to meet the deadline set by the club.

BBC 5Live's Pat Murphy has estimated the value of the football club has dropped to about £30m as it struggles in the second tier.

Fans' organisation the Blues Trust has said Birmingham supporters are looking forward to a "new era" and want to put "this troubling period behind us as soon as possible".

It has called on BIHL to sell the club as soon as possible.

Since Yeung took charge, Blues have won the League Cup but have been relegated from the Barclays Premier League and are currently 17th in the Championship.

Carson Yeung on way to court Carson Yeung was driven to the courtroom by bus for sentencing on Friday

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