Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung guilty of money laundering

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong court on Monday found Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung guilty of five counts of money laundering, cementing the former hairdresser's fall from grace since taking over the club in 2009.

The 54-year-old businessman had denied laundering HK$720 million (S$117.6 million) between 2001 and 2007, and repeatedly tried to halt proceedings over the course of the trial, claiming irregularities.

Judge Douglas Yau said Yeung was "self-contradictory" in his testimony and that he was "making it up as he went along" to a district courthouse packed with reporters and members of the public.

The tycoon, wearing a dark suit, appeared calm as the verdict was read out. He will be sentenced on Friday and could face a maximum of seven years in jail.

Yeung was arrested and charged with ill-gotten gains in the southern Chinese city in June 2011, two years after he acquired the "Blues".

Yeung, who was little known prior to his emergence in English football, took control of the club in October 2009 in an 81-million pound (S$172 million) takeover.

In February Yeung resigned as chairman and executive director of Birmingham International Holdings Limited (BIHL), which owns the struggling second-tier club. Yeung, whose Cantonese name is Yeung Ka-sing, emerged in 2007 with a bid for Birmingham.

The takeover attempt failed when he missed the deadline to hand over money. He quietly acquired a 29.9 percent stake and in 2009, Yeung's Grandtop International Holdings - which later became BIHL - bought the club from David Sullivan and David Gold, now owners of West Ham.

Throughout the trial, Yeung and the prosecution have painted differing pictures of how the businessman's wealth was amassed.

Yeung maintained he accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars through stock trading, hairdressing, business ventures in mainland China and a keen interest in gambling.

He said he made HK$20 million as a hairdresser between 1989 to 1994, when he ran five upmarket hair salons in hotels, including Hong Kong's five-star Peninsula Hotel.

Yeung described himself as a "very famous" hairdresser, claiming his salons catered to movie stars and businessmen. He also said he spent "all" of his time trading stocks after the 1998 Asian stock market crash, accumulating a stock portfolio of around HK$300 million by 2007.

Yeung also told the court he made up to HK$30 million from gambling in Macau between 2004 and 2008, adding that he gambled as if he were "running a business".

However, in his Monday verdict Yau said there were reasonable grounds to believe that multiple business dealings with which Yeung was involved had made use of funds which represented "proceeds of an indictable offence".