HONG KONG: England’s Football League is quizzing Birmingham City over the continuing influence of the club’s former owner Carson Yeung, who is languishing in a Hong Kong prison for money laundering, reports said Thursday.
Yeung, 54, was jailed for six years last March in a case that gripped the southern Chinese city and fans of the English football club with its tales of unexplained dealings and financial transactions involving local businessmen and an alleged triad member.
The Football League sent the club a letter asking whether the jailed former chairman is still acting as a director — which he is barred from doing — after Yeung requested the board appoint three new directors including his former driver and his partner, according to British newspaper reports.
The letter came after the club’s holding company filed a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, where Birmingham International Holdings (BIHL) is listed, on Tuesday. It questioned the appropriateness of the new directors suggested by Yeung, as well as his connection with another major shareholder which would take him over the percentage of club ownership he is allowed.
Football League rules prevent any person convicted for a crime related to dishonesty from being a director or owning more than 30 percent of a club.
“The Football League has written to Birmingham City today to ask for clarification as to whether this statement demonstrates that Carson Yeung should be defined as a ‘relevant person’ under the Owners and Directors test while being subject to a disqualifying condition,” The Guardian newspaper said, citing a League spokesman.
There had been an “ongoing dialogue with the club in recent months” a League spokesman told the BBC.
Yeung currently holds 27.9 percent of BIHL, according to the company’s filing.
But it showed that Yeung is acting in alliance with a separate company, U-Continent, which holds 15.5 percent of BIHL shares — taking him over the 30 percent shareholding threshold.
The statement also said the board had asked Yeung to arrange for the proposed new directors to meet the company’s nominating committee so it could ascertain if they “have the character, experience and integrity” to take on the role.
Yeung — who was charged in June 2011, two years after he bought the team — has appealed against the conviction.
He remains the largest shareholder in the club, according to the Hong Kong stock exchange website, despite resigning from all positions at its holding company before the trial verdict.
Birmingham City — which was relegated from the Premiership in 2011, three months after winning the League Cup — has been in talks with potential bidders over the past few years.
Little known before his emergence in English football, former hairdresser Yeu-g took control of Birmingham City in October 2009 in an £81 million ($123 million) takeover from David Sullivan and David Gold, now the co-owners of West Ham United.