HK police arrest Birmingham City owner
The Hong Kong-based owner of Birmingham City football club was charged Thursday with five counts of money laundering involving more than 720 million Hong Kong dollars ($92 million).
Carson Yeung, who bought Birmingham two years ago for 81.5 million pounds ($131 million), appeared in court to face the charges of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense. The charges involve sums of money deposited in bank accounts from January 2001 to December 2007, according to a charge sheet.
Yeung was granted bail but ordered to surrender his travel documents and stay in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong police referred inquiries about Yeung's arrest to a statement that only confirmed a 51-year-old man was arrested Wednesday.
Narcotics Bureau officers searched two locations and seized some documents, the statement said.
Yeung was arrested after police officers went to his home in an upscale neighborhood Wednesday, the Hong Kong Standard newspaper reported.
Birmingham acting chairman Peter Pannu said in a statement posted on the team's website Wednesday that Yeung is assisting police with the investigation of ''certain criminal activities,'' but he believes they do not have any connection ''to the operation of the parent company or any of its subsidiaries.''
''I've had it explained to me that the charges relate to the 2001 to 2007 period - two years before Carson invested in this club, so there is no connection there. The fans have nothing to worry about. The finances are okay,'' Pannu said Thursday.
''Understandably, the fans are worried about this. This has got nothing to do with the club and there is no impact on the operations over here. I've spoken on a couple of occasions to Carson and his lawyers, and they've assured me there is no link whatsoever.''
Yeung said when he bought Birmingham in 2009 that he hoped to build up the team's fan base in China and generate new sources of revenue. He also pledged to strengthen the squad by investing up to 40 million pounds ($64.4 million) for the January transfer window.
Yeung was a little-known Hong Kong businessman prior to his takeover of Birmingham. His previous experience with professional football was limited to a stint as chairman of Hong Kong Rangers Football Club in 2005-06. He also worked as a hairdresser, invested in a Macau casino and has a stake in a Hong Kong newspaper, local media reports said.
Birmingham's 48-year wait for a title ended in February after winning the League Cup but the team was relegated from the English Premier League in May following a defeat in its last match at Tottenham.
Shares of Hong Kong-listed Birmingham International, in which Yeung has a 26 percent stake, have been suspended from trading. No reason was given and no one at the company was available to comment. The company, which is registered in the Cayman Islands, is also involved in apparel sourcing and trading ,and entertainment and media services.
The case was adjourned until Aug. 11.