Soccer

Birmingham City owner Yeung's HK trial delayed

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HONG KONG (AP)

A Hong Kong judge has granted Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung's request to postpone his trial on money laundering charges, which was due to start Wednesday.

District Court Judge Douglas Yau granted a request by Yeung's lawyer, Joseph Tse, to adjourn the trial until April 29.

Newly-appointed Tse argued that more time was needed to prepare for the complex case, involving five counts of money laundering involving more than 720 million Hong Kong dollars ($92 million).

The charges against Yeung, who was arrested and charged in June 2011, involve money deposited into bank accounts from January 2001 to December 2007.

The court heard that Yeung went through five other lawyers who had tried and failed multiple times to unfreeze his assets so that he could pay for his defense. The judge said it was not Yeung's fault that his previous lawyers ''chose the wrong fight'' and ''should not be punished for it.'' Yeung's lawyer says he has managed to raise money from an alternative source for the trial.

''Public money would be better spent waiting for the defendant to get his defense team ready and then proceeding to a swift and efficient trial,'' said Yau, who dismissed the prosecution's allegation that it was a delaying tactic.

Yau said Yeung ''knows he won't be able to escape from the destiny of a trial but all that he asks for is the opportunity to have a fair trial.''

Yeung, a former hairdresser, bought Birmingham in a protracted takeover battle in October 2009 for 81.5 million pounds (then $130 million). But despite ending a 48-year streak without a major trophy by winning the 2011 League Cup, the club was relegated from the Premier League in 2011. It is currently 19th in the second-tier Championship, six points above the relegation zone.

Yeung Controls the club through his company Birmingham International, shares of which have been suspended from the Hong Kong stock exchange since he was arrested. The company said last week it was in advanced talks with one of several prospective buyers of the club, but did not name them.

Before his takeover of Birmingham, Yeung was a little-known businessman who reportedly invested in a Macau casino and owned a stake in a Hong Kong newspaper. His only previous experience with professional football consisted of a stint as chairman of Hong Kong Rangers Football Club from 2005-06.

A pretrial review is scheduled for March 25. The trial is expected to last five weeks.

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