Birmingham City owner Yeung bailed

Carson YeungCarson Yeung, right, the Hong Kong-based businessman who also owns Birmingham City FC, has been bailed after his arrest in Hong Kong on Thursday over the laundering of £57.8m. Shares in Birmingham International Holdings, the vehicle which owns the Blues, have been suspended.
Yeung's arrest and subsequent release on bail has cast the future of the club in serious doubt. The case is expected to go on for as long as a year and can only increase uncertainty over the future financial health of the Midlands club, which was relegated from the top division last season.

HSBC concern

The club's acting chairman, Peter Pannu, said he did not believe the investigation related to Birmingham International Holdings or any of its subsidiaries. But Yeung's lawyer said that HSBC had expressed concern about a £70m loan to the club.

Yeung appeared before prosecutors yesterday to hear that "forensic accounting" had found "hallmarks of money-laundering" in a total of five bank accounts held by Yeung and his father between 2001 and 2007. The pair are said to have dealt with HK$720m during the period, but had declared less than HK$2m in taxable income.

No plea has been entered, but if Yeung is found guilty he could face up to 14 years in prison and be stripped of his 23% stake in Birmingham if it is proved that he acquired that stake from criminal proceeds. Yeung bought into the club by paying £81m to David Sullivan and David Gold in 2009.

Black hole

Birmingham City have already revealed a £24m black hole in their accounts, and relegation will further reduce income. With this added uncertainty over the owner's future, it's going to be hard to attract or retain players and sponsors. The Football League says it has no reason to intervene until the legal process has run its course.

It's not the first time questions have been raised about Yeung's money. His first bid fell through in 2007 when he failed to come up with the money on deadline. He started his career as a hairdresser, but moved into property and co-founded a luxury casino in Macau.

And the case will raise further questions about the football authority rules defining what makes someone 'fit and proper' to run a football club now that fresh doubt has been placed on his finances. No doubt eyebrows will be raised at Supporters Direct, which is having its books pored over at the moment.
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