Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung Ka-sing failed yesterday in what a judge called an attempt to "hijack" the court and win the postponement of his trial next week on money-laundering charges.
District Court Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi ruled in favour of the prosecution - represented by Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC - by striking out his application for the trial to be delayed until next June.
The original date for the 15-day trial - in which hairdresser-turned-businessman Yeung, 52, faces five charges involving HK$723 million - was fixed 11 months ago, the court heard. It is due to start on Wednesday.
Seeking the delay, Joseph Tse Wah-yuen SC - appointed by Yeung just a day before yesterday's hearing - told the court it would be barely possible for any lawyer to prepare a case of this complexity in such a short time.
He said another law firm hired by Yeung, who is chairman of the English Championship side, had made an unsuccessful application to the Court of Appeal for the release of assets frozen by court order. This meant Yeung could not hire lawyers until he raised funds elsewhere.
Tse said the postponement was imperative for a fully-prepared and fair trial. But Chan said Yeung should have started preparing for the case when he was arrested in June last year.
"This is a complicated case," he said. "If [the application] is not hijacking [of the court ] what's the proper description of it?" Chan said the trial judge could exercise discretion by giving "a few more days" should Yeung apply for an adjournment next Wednesday.
Zervos, pointing out Yeung's frequent changes of lawyers, said the businessman was trying to avoid a trial.
"It's a delaying tactic to put this trial off," he said. "It will be a shame if it succeeds."
The top prosecutor said it was not a complicated case. He added: "It's been complicated by the conduct of the defendant, a serious abuse of process and an affront to criminal justice."
Wing Hang Bank earlier issued a vacant possession order against Yeung after he failed to make repayments on a HK$50 million mortgage loan that he secured against his house on Barker Road.
On June 4, Yeung was ordered to leave the house within 56 days, but the order was put on hold after Yeung appealed.
Birmingham International, the parent company of Birmingham City, said early last month it was holding discussions with two prospective buyers.
Yeung owns a controlling 26.3 per cent stake in the club.
In August, he was stopped from attending his father's funeral on the mainland after a High Court judge refused to amend bail conditions that forbid him from leaving Hong Kong.