Birmingham City Football Club boss Carson Yeung Ka-sing has pleaded not guilty to laundering HK$720 million and asked the court to close his case for good instead.
The hairdresser turned soccer tycoon applied to the District Court yesterday for a permanent stay of his proceedings, citing the prosecution's abuse of process.
Defence counsel Graham Harris SC told the court: "[Yeung] is prejudiced such that a fair trial is no longer possible, because the defence is unable to secure various documents and evidence of witnesses by reason of delay and the lapse of time.
"The police, having commenced their investigation into this case since 2007, have … failed to properly obtain and preserve relevant materials," Harris said. "The investigation by the police was … either selective and/or defective."
Yeung, 52, was arrested and charged in June 2011 with five counts of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence between 2001 and 2007.
"A significant portion" of the businessman's wealth came from "lawful and legitimate stock trading" through a large number of stockbrokers before 2001, Harris said.
Yeung told the court he had spent tens of millions of dollars - possibly close to HK$100 million - in cash on such trading activities, the lawyer pointed out. But prosecutors focused mainly on cheque payments only, he said.
He also noted the prosecution had failed to contact at least eight securities brokerage houses that Yeung had dealt with. Most of these brokerages, in response to defence inquiries, had said no records relevant to the case were available as most official papers were kept for only seven years.
Harris said some documents that were to his client's benefit might have been lost.
"The five bank accounts were identified in 2008," he said. "The defendant should have been arrested in 2008 or soon after, but he was only arrested in 2011. Therefore he has lost the opportunity to obtain and preserve relevant materials that date back to as early as 2001. [This case] is one of those rare circumstances where the correct and fair thing to do is to order a permanent stay."
If the court dismissed the application, Harris said, Yeung's charges should be limited to the post-2004 period - the last seven years prior to his arrest.
John Reading SC, for the prosecution, questioned if the missing documents would have worked to Yeung's advantage. He also said the delay was due to "a great deal" of investigation work and was "not unreasonable".
Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong will deliver his ruling on Friday.
Yeung, who was little known prior to his emergence in English soccer, took over the Birmingham City club in 2009 for £81 million (HK$972 million).
The club's fortunes have since gone downhill. It was relegated from the Premiership three months after winning the League Cup in 2011 amid financial woes.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse