Yeung’s Soccer Club Purchase Funded by Unknown Deposits

Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung’s purchase of the English soccer club Birmingham City was partly paid with funds in bank accounts connected to his money laundering trial, a prosecutor said.

Yeung received HK$721.3 million ($93 million) in deposits from a Macau casino operator, securities firms and “unknown parties” into five bank accounts controlled by him over a seven-year period to 2007, John Reading, prosecution lawyer, told a Hong Kong court at the start of Yeung’s trial on money-laundering charges.

The deposits “amounted to more than 300 times the total combined salary” of Yeung and his father, who co-signed on two of the accounts, Reading said. Yeung “was a man of apparently modest means,” the prosecution lawyer said.

Hong Kong, where the number of suspicious transaction reports filed by banks and others required to do so doubled to 23,282 last year from a decade ago, won convictions earlier this year in two of the city’s largest money-laundering cases with a combined value of almost HK$20 billion. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said last month that it was doubling the size of its anti-money laundering operation.

Yeung, 53, has pleaded not guilty to all five charges of “dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of indictable offense.” The hairdresser-turned-businessman earned a significant portion of his income through stock trading, his lawyer Graham Harris argued at an April 29 hearing.

Halt Rejected

Judge Douglas Yau today rejected a request from Yeung’s lawyers to stop the trial. Stock brokers aren’t required to keep records for more than seven years and the lack of documents proving how Yeung acquired his wealth would make a fair trial impossible, Harris had argued last month.

Yeung was chairman of Grandtop International Holdings Ltd., which in 2007 bought a 29.9 percent stake in the West Midlands, U.K.-based soccer club for 15 million pounds ($23 million). Yeung bought the rest of the club in 2009, paying 81.5 million pounds to David and Ralph Gold and David Sullivan and Grandtop changed its name to Birmingham International Holdings Ltd.

About one-third of the price of the initial stake was paid personally from the bank accounts involved in the laundering charges to Messrs. Prince Evans, a U.K. law firm, Reading said.

The securities firms deposited a total of HK$70.8 million, Readings said. The prosecutor didn’t identify the firms. A company operating casinos in Macau, which also wasn’t named in the proceedings, deposited HK$62.5 million into Yeung’s accounts, according to the prosecutor’s submission.

The trial is scheduled to resume May 7.

Yeung was arrested in June 2011 and shares of Birmingham International have been suspended since. The soccer club had a 42 percent drop in sales for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2012, after the team’s relegation from the top-flight Premier League 2011, according to its interim report.

The case is Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Yeung Ka-sing Carson, DCCC860/2011 in the Hong Kong District Court.

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