Carson Yeung, the former chairman of the UK’s Birmingham City Football Club and hairdresser to Hong Kong’s rich and famous, has lost his appeal against a money laundering conviction in a Hong Kong court.
Yeung Ka-sing, his Cantonese name, received a six year jail term in March 2014 after being found guilty on five counts of laundering between 2001 and 2007. He claimed in court to have earned HKD20m (USD2.5m) from a lucrative hairdressing business, and a further HKD300m(USD38.7m) from the stock exchange and HKD30m (USD3.8m) more from playing the tables in Macau like he was ‘running a business.’
The Hong Kong court did not accept these explanations of his source of wealth and Judge Douglas Yau ruled that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Yeung’s wealth ‘represented the proceeds of an indictable offence.’ There was no further comment of what that indictable offence may be.
The former hairdresser resigned as the chairman of Birmingham City Football Club (BCFC) in February 2014, a month prior to his conviction. His acquisition of the club in 2009 dubbed ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery‘ by the Guardian.
He first bid for the BCFC in 2007, but missed the deadline to handover the money. He went on to ‘quietly acquire‘ a 29.9% stake in the club and launched a successful takeover bid in 2009 when a company owned by Yeung called Grandtop International Holdings, which later became Birmingham International Holdings Limited (BIHL), bought the football club.
Yeung’s business dealings have moved through a hairdressing salon, to stock markets, to gambling, a failed takeover, followed by a successful one and a change in name of holding companies. That may not be unusual for high-flying entrepreneurs, when opportunities to make gains present themselves in many different packages. The results are the same.
One final point to close off. Carson Yeung was approved by the UK Premier League as a ‘fit and proper person‘ to lead the GBP81.9m (USD129.4m) takeover of Birmingham City in 2009. At this time he was under investigation in Hong Kong and any attempts to perform due diligence should have revealed this.
David Conn’s article in the Guardian from March 2014 highlights some of the key points in the case. This entire story should serve as a reminder to anti-money laundering professionals of how the big game is played. Big money laundering, or the offences to which the law can apply money laundering charges, are not only about petty drug traffickers smurfing a few thousand dollars across a border. It is about major multi-million dollar deals, often carried out in plain view and yet there are no details of how any money was laundered in this case.