Carson Yeung belittles talk of HK$248m takeover of Birmingham City FC
Charges of money laundering notwithstanding, businessman dismisses Italian millionaire's claim of buying his 'priceless' Birmingham City
Birmingham City Football Club is "priceless", its boss Carson Yeung Ka-sing says in dismissing talk of an Italian millionaire's proposed acquisition bid, estimated at HK$248 million.
"Better ask him first if he has enough money," the 53-year-old businessman told the South China Morning Post outside the District Court yesterday.
Yeung, 53, was fresh from his failed second attempt to have his trial thrown out - he faces five charges and is accused of laundering HK$721 million.
He brushed off claims that millionaire Gianni Paladini signed an agreement last month with the club's acting chairman to buy it, but that the deal had not yet been completed.
Accusing Paladini of "bluffing", Yeung said: "He'd better look at his own fund pool."
Earlier this month, Paladini, former chairman of Queen's Park Rangers, told English station Free Radio 80s that Peter Pannu, chief of the Blues' parent company Birmingham International, returned to Hong Kong from Birmingham to tell Yeung about the proposed takeover - believed to be worth £20 million. Paladini claimed that after weeks of waiting, the deal was still pending.
Yeung was relatively unknown on the English soccer scene before he bought 29.9 per cent of the issued capital of the Blues for HK$237 million in 2008.
The following year, he took over the rest of the club for HK$731 million.
On November 5, Birmingham International told Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing that it was discussing ways to raise money or restructure its debt. Trading of its shares, which had been suspended, could resume by the end of this year or early next year.
It also said: "Mr Yeung has informed the board that he will voluntarily suspend his management duties within the group … at least until Mr Yeung's criminal case has come to a favourable close or upon [his] resignation."
A club spokesman said yesterday: "Unfortunately, this matter is not in our jurisdiction, so there is nothing to add from the club."
Yeung's money laundering trial will next be heard on December 12, when both parties will make their closing submissions.
Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong rejected his attempt for a permanent stay of the proceedings.
"I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the trial has become so tainted with unfairness such that it should be stayed," he said.
Defence lawyers said last week that the prosecution deprived their client of a fair trial with its late submission of new materials concerning a loan he had advanced to convicted impresario Abba Chan Tat-chee.
Yeung denies laundering bank deposits from parties including a Macau casino operator and securities firms from January 2001 to December 2007.
Additional reporting by John Carney