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Crime in Hong Kong

Former accountant jailed for 10 years for stealing US$4.78 million from former Birmingham City boss Carson Yeung’s holding company

  • Jerry Ko signed 75 cheques in the names of Yeung and another director to deposit substantial sums in his personal account
  • Jailed tycoon Yeung gave evidence during the trial
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 January, 2019, 9:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 10:39am

An accountant who worked for disgraced tycoon Carson Yeung Ka-sing was on Wednesday jailed for 10 years for stealing HK$37.45 million (US$4.78 million) from a holding company Yeung used to own the Birmingham City Football Club.

After more than four hours of deliberation, seven jurors returned a unanimous verdict to find Jerry Ko Ka-wai guilty of one count of theft at the High Court.

Deputy Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on severely criticised the accused for his serious breach of trust as he passed the maximum sentence, saying that Ko showed no regard for the interest of the then publicly listed Birmingham International Holdings and its shareholders.

The judge also reprimanded the 37-year-old for taking advantage of his position to carry out his crime. He imposed a bankruptcy order on the former accountant.

During the three-week trial lasted – which featured testimony from Yeung himself despite him being behind bars for separate money laundering offences – the court heard that Ko signed 75 cheques in the names of Yeung and another director to deposit substantial sums into his own account. The offences took place between September 26, 2013 and December 16, 2014.

Carson Yeung to serve rest of six-year jail sentence after losing final appeal in Hong Kong

But Ko told police after his arrest in 2015 that the money was for awards from the company and an amount he was given for Yeung’s personal business – a version of events the judge said had been rejected by the jury on Wednesday.

In mitigation, his defence counsel Oliver Davies said Ko had been an accountant for 13 years after he graduated from university in Australia. He urged Kwok to consider it as not the most serious case.

Kwok disagreed, however, noting that Ko pocketed the sum to fulfil his penchant for luxury watches as well as gambling.

At one point in Ko’s trial, Yeung, the hairdresser-turned-tycoon, was called to the witness box, for a rare appearance from jail. He had been jailed in 2014 for six years for laundering more than HK$700 million.

Carson Yeung’s lifestyle went ‘from a Ferrari to a Toyota’ after his arrest

Apart from confirming that he had not signed the cheques Ko was accused of forging, he also denied being in control of the company remotely since he had gone to jail in 2014.

Yeung, expected to be released in January, also gave a rare insight into his methods for selecting the personnel to help him run his company.

He was asked why he selected then firm’s then CEO Peter Pannu and directors Victor Ma Shui-cheong and Panos Pavlakis, even though they had not prior experience in football management.

Yeung said he invited Pannu because he was a barrister who was also “really familiar with football”, adding that he was “really hardworking” and “not expensive” compared with his peers in other league clubs.

He said he picked Ma, who was in the aviation trade, because he used to work for him at Sing Pao, a Chinese newspaper that he bought in 2008 and sold in 2011.