More scandal for Birmingham City

First manager Alex McLeish deserts them after relegation, now City owner Carson Yeung is charged with money-laundering.

    Alex McLeish joined rivals Aston Villa following Birmingham City's relegation to the Championship [EPA] 

    Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung appeared in court in Hong Kong on Thursday charged with money-laundering, a day after being arrested by police.

    The lone-time hairdresser turned football tycoon declined to comment as he pushed his way through a scrum of reporters to a waiting minivan after being released on $900,000 bail following a brief appearance at the magistrates court.

    The millionaire, whose club was relegated from the Premier League last month, was required to surrender his passport and report regularly to police as part of his bail conditions.

    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 $92 million passing through accounts connected with Yeung.

    His lawyer, Daniel Marash, cast doubt on the allegations.

    "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 outside court on Thursday.

    "You cannot assume it's taxable."

    The fact prosecutors declined to identify the allegedly criminal origin of the money showed the weakness of their case, he added.

    "I think if they could specify it, they would," Marash said.

    The next hearing was set for August.

    Not connected to club

    Yeung took control of Birmingham in October 2009 in an $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, whose Hong Kong-listed shares were suspended from trading on Thursday.

    The company's lawyers had informed Pannu 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.

    "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."

    Birmingham International's executive chairman Vico Hui, who is acting as one of Yeung's sureties, said it was "not the right time to comment".

    Times of change 

    Birmingham were relegated from the English Premier League on the final day of last season and have since seen 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 before later taking 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 the Macau gambling boom in 2004 when he co-founded Greek Mythology, a casino in the former Portuguese enclave near Hong Kong.



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