Birmingham City owner fails to have money laundering trial dismissed

HONG KONG Fri May 3, 2013 2:43am EDT

HONG KONG May 3 (Reuters) - Birmingham City football club owner Carson Yeung failed to have charges of laundering more than HK$720 million ($93 million)thrown out on Friday after a judge rejected claims that the absence of some documents would make a fair trial impossible.

District Court judge Douglas Yau said the defence failed to prove that missing documents from securities brokerages and delays by investigators would result in an unfair hearing.

The hairdresser-turned-tycoon has denied charges of "dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence" between 2001 and 2007.

Yeung, dressed in a dark suit and grey tie, appeared calm but tired in court.

After the decision to proceed with the trial, the prosecution presented its case, saying deposits of about HK$721 million made to accounts in the name of Yeung and his father far outweighed their combined income of HK$2.16 million over the period in question.

There were 437 cash deposits made by unknown parties totalling about HK$97.5 million for no apparent reason, prosecutor John Reading SC said.

The deposits also included cheques from a company operating casinos in Macau totalling HK$72.5 million, he added.

Defence counsel Graham Harris told the court this week that Yeung could not receive a fair trial as he was unable to secure documents that might be crucial to the defendant's case.

Financial institutions in Hong Kong are required to keep business records for seven years, which means some documentary evidence that could support the defendant's assets and lawful trading activities may no longer exist, Harris said on Monday.

The trial resumes next Tuesday.

The case comes a week after Hong Kong's banking regulator said it was doubling the size of its anti-money laundering team to toughen supervision after two court cases drew attention to financial institutions' compliance and monitoring systems in the Asian financial centre.

Yeung, who heads Hong Kong-listed Birmingham International Holdings Ltd, was arrested in June 2011. Trading in shares of the English second-tier football club's parent has since been suspended.

The company had a market value of $77 million before the trading suspension.

Hong Kong's anti-money laundering ordinance came into effect last April, empowering the city's monetary authority to prosecute or discipline banks for ignoring or assisting in money laundering, incluidng fines of up to HK$1 million and the revocation of licences. ($1 = 7.7596 Hong Kong dollars) (Additional reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Ron Popeski)