Whoda thunk it? Carson Yeung, the 51 year-old Hongkongnese owner of Birmingham City FC (who were freshly demoted from the Premier League in May), has been charged with five counts of money laundering in a Hong Kong court, having allegedly laundered over $720 million HKD ($92.5 million USD) over six years.
Having bought the team two years ago for what sounds like a bargain at 81.5 million pounds (US$130.5 million), Yeung is being charged with laundering over a regular basis through a variety of bank accounts from January of 2001 to December of 2007, the period in question being before he took ownership of the Blues.
Though Yeung is out on bail, fresh out jail and California dreamin’, he has been ordered to surrender his travel documents and is forbidden from leaving Hong Kong.
Shanghai Daily reports on the decline and fall of a businessman who dreamed of bringing a West Midlands team to the Chinese masses:
Yeung said when he bought Birmingham in 2009 that he hoped to build up the team’s fan base in China and generate new sources of revenue. He also pledged to strengthen the squad by investing up to 40 million pounds during the January transfer window.
Yeung was a little-known Hong Kong businessman prior to his takeover of Birmingham. His previous experience with professional football was limited to a stint as chairman of Hong Kong Rangers Football Club in 2005-06. He also worked as a hairdresser, invested in a Macau casino and has a stake in a Hong Kong newspaper, local media reports said.
All of this comes after a rollercoaster season for Birmingham City, who managed to top Arsenal 2-1 for the League Cup in February, ending their near-half century drought of trophy-less despondency, only to crash out of the Premier League after losing 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in their last match of the season.
Yeung wouldn’t be the first foreign owner in the Premier League to not exactly have their finances in order. Many fans of traditional powerhouses Liverpool FC and Manchester United have derided their owners in recent years, due to massive debt problems which lead to the selling of valuable players for instant revenue boosts (see Ronaldo, Cristiano). Manchester United’s debt was said to have topped over 1 billion pounds in 2010, though to the club’s credit, the figure now stands at a paltry 478 million pounds.