Carson Yeung spends first night in jail after conviction for money laundering
Judge says hairdresser turned football club owner 'not a witness' of truth
Carson Yeung Ka-sing, a major shareholder of English football club Birmingham City, spent his first night after being found guilty of laundering HK$721 million through five Hong Kong bank accounts.
Following the verdict Yeung's lawyer Graham Harris said the tycoon would not be asking for bail and that "an immediate custodiate sentence is inevitable" when he is sentenced later in the week.
Hairdresser-turned-businessman Yeung was described by the District Court Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong as “not a witness of truth”, who had lied and exaggerated his income. He found Yeung’s testimony was self-contradictory and some of it was even “extremely strange”.
The judge based his findings on the fact that huge amounts of money went through five accounts in Yeung’s name or of which he was a signatory at Wing Lung Bank and HSBC between January 2001 and December 2007.
Yau noted that the accounts were used as a repository of funds, as deposits and withdrawals were almost identical.often being carried out on the same day.
Yau found that a right thinking member of the community would have reasonable grounds to believe the money that passed through the bank accounts represented, wholly or in part, directly or indirectly, proceeds from an indictable offence.
The judge said many of the deposits were cash deposits because Yeung, 54, knew that would make the money more difficult to trace.
“The defendant did not tell the whole truth about the true nature of the deposits,” Yau said.
Mitigation and sentencing has been adjourned to Friday.
Yeung’s father, Yeung Chung, a co-accused, died on the mainland in 2012.
The verdict came after a trial that lasted more than 50 days and that Yeung’s lawyers had twice tried to halt.
The prosecution based its case on the fact that Yeung and his father reported no earnings for four or five years of the 2001-2007 period but their combined reported income for the time frame was HK$2,159,392, while some HK$721 million was deposited into their five bank accounts.
Yeung had testified that he earned hundreds of millions of dollars by running upmarket hair salons, investing in real estate and the stock market and from winnings in Macau casinos.
Yeung took over Birmingham City for HK$731 million in 2009. But in 2011, the club was relegated from the Premier League and Yeung was arrested in June that year.
Relatively unknown before his emergence on the soccer scene, Yeung resigned from all his posts at the holding company of Birmingham City last month to “devote more time to his other personal commitments”.
The prosecution charged that since 2001 various parties made deposits to their accounts, many for no apparent reason.
Some were made by securities firms and a Macau casino company, while others were made by unknown parties. Some 437 deposits totalling more than HK$97 million were made in cash.
The deposits of HK$721 million in the accounts were virtually identical to the total withdrawn by the end of 2007. There were multiple transactions in which the sums deposited and withdrawn were identical and took place on the same day, the court heard.
Yeung, son of a vegetable stall holder, took the stand to explain how he amassed his fortune. He told the court that he earned his first HK$4 million when he worked as an apprentice hairdresser in London and Paris after he finished his Form 5 education, and with an upmarket salon in Central in the 1990s.
He told the court that he set up a total of five salons and claimed to have earned as much as HK$20 million in total as he was a “very famous” in the industry and in social circles. He ceased to be a hairdresser in 1995.
Yeung also said he first opened a share trading account in 1978 at the age of 18. He said started trading between HK$100,000 and HK$200,000.
Yeung said he traded about HK$2 million every day in the market between 1999 and 2000, holding stock shares to the tune of HK$100 million. And by 2007, his portfolio was worth HK$300 million.
Yeung said he started gambling in 1997 and paid frequent visits to casino VIP rooms in Macau in the 2000s, betting HK$100,000 per game. He earned up to HK$30 million through the years, he claimed.
He said HK$62.45 million in cheques paid into his accounts by Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, a casino company, were part of his huge gambling wins in the former Portuguese colony.
He had also testified that he accepted cheques involving millions of dollars from staff members of Macau casino junket operators because the money came from his investment capital in those firms.
He testified that he bought a Maybach car for HK$6 million and an 88ft cruiser for about HK$49 million. He also bought luxury houses on the Peak and in London.
Yeung told the court that he aspired to set up 50 soccer schools on the mainland through the acquisition of Birmingham City Football Club in England as he believed Chinese soccer was not up to standard.