Carson Yeung

Carson Yeung planned mainland soccer empire, he tells money laundering trial

Businessman tells laundering trial he wanted to set up 50 mainland soccer schools and denies using 'dirty money' to buy Birmingham City FC

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 4:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 4:32am

Barber-turned-businessman Carson Yeung Ka-sing aspired to set up 50 soccer schools on the mainland through the acquisition of Birmingham City Football Club in England as Chinese soccer was not up to standard, a court heard yesterday.

The tycoon had his eye on the English club because parents under the one-child policy tended to give their children the best, which would mean enormous business opportunities to run soccer training schools.

"Children go to school and learn to play football [soccer]," Yeung, 53, told District Court judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong. "When they grow up, they can be sent to Birmingham City Football Club."

The former club owner talked about his soccer dream on the 41st day of a trial in which he denies five counts of laundering ill-gotten gains involving more than HK$720 million from January 2001 to December 2007.

He also spoke proudly of his ties to the mainland, where he was given the title of honorary citizen in Inner Mongolia . "I was the first merchant from Hong Kong to invest in Inner Mongolia," he told the court.

Apart from business engagements, Yeung said he made generous donations of up to 50 million yuan (HK$63.21 million) to charities across the border from 2001 to 2007.

During charity functions, he met and took pictures with Deng Pufang , son of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping , and former Politburo Standing Committee member Hu Qili .

The court heard earlier that the former hairdresser amassed wealth of up to HK$100 million in 2000 through upmarket salons, property investments in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, and stock dealings.

Yesterday, Yeung explained the source of the money he used to buy Birmingham City FC.

He acquired 29.9 per cent of the club's shares in 2008 by borrowing HK$140 million from Kingston Finance and raising funds from the market, he said.

His firm, Grandtop International, later made a full acquisition.

When defence barrister Graham Harris SC said it might be suggested to Yeung that he had used "dirty money" for the purchase, he said: "It was probably impossible."

Yeung elaborated: "Because in this acquisition, I borrowed money from Kingston Finance, which was our financial adviser."

Befitting his new status as owner of a then Premier League soccer club, he bought a hand-built Maybach car worth HK$6 million, a luxury boat and a villa at The Peak.

The tycoon also shared with the court his tips on making a killing in the stock market. His strategies included investing in initial public offerings, red chips and companies with insufficient cash flow, he said.