Carson Yeung Ka-sing, owner of the English football club Birmingham City, has been given an extra four months to prepare his defence on money-laundering charges involving more than HK$700 million.
His application for an adjournment was allowed yesterday, less than a week after an earlier attempt was dismissed by a judge who accused Yeung of trying to "hijack" the court diary.
District Court Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong ruled that Yeung, who faces five charges, was not trying to delay the trial, which was due to start yesterday.
"On the balance of probabilities and interest of fairness and justice, I find that I should grant the application for adjournment," Yau said.
Yeung based his application on the grounds that he had only recently secured the funds to pay his legal fees.
All his assets were frozen by a court-ordered injunction that was imposed soon after his arrest in June last year.
When the prosecution opposed the adjournment application, Joseph Tse SC, for Yeung, said the stance had the "hallmarks of oppressive prosecution". If extra time was not allowed, Yeung would be forced to defend himself without legal assistance, Tse said.
Tse said the legal team needed more time to gather evidence to show that even though Yeung began his career as a humble hairdresser, he had become a wealthy and successful businessman well before 2001, the year the alleged offences began. The trial was adjourned to April 29. The parties will return to court for a pre-trial hearing on March 25.
Granting the adjournment, Yau said he believed that Yeung wanted to know as soon as possible whether he would be freed or sent to jail.
"There is not much you can do living in a state of limbo," Yau said. "I do not agree that the defendant has been trying to delay the trial."
John Reading SC, for the prosecution, pointed out that although Yeung said he had no funds to pay legal fees, he had engaged no fewer than five senior counsel.
Yeung was released on bail of HK$7 million cash and another HK$7 million in surety.
The court also heard that the Department of Justice had only recently changed the leading prosecutor in the case, after it came to light that prosecutor Michael Blanchflower SC gave legal advice to Yeung in a separate criminal case in 2003.