Birmingham City owner pleads not guilty to money laundering

Birmingham City football club owner Carson Yeung pleaded not guilty to charges of laundering more than HK$720 million ($92.74 million) and his defense team sought to have the case thrown out, saying some related documents were no longer available.

Yeung, dressed in a dark suit and striped tie, appeared calm as he denied five charges, which prosecutors said occurred between 2001 and 2007, of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence.

His lawyer, Graham Harris SC, said some documents that might be crucial to the defendant's case were no longer available, rendering a fair trial impossible.

"The unavailability of materials results in serious prejudice against Mr Yeung," Harris said, adding that it would be "monstrously unfair" if the trial proceeded.

Yeung has made several attempts to postpone the trial. It had been due to start last November but the hairdresser-turned-tycoon won a delay after his lawyers said more time was needed to gather evidence.

The hearing comes just days after Hong Kong's banking regulator said it was doubling the size of its anti-money laundering team to toughen supervision after two recent court cases drew unwanted attention to financial institutions' compliance and monitoring systems in the city.

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

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

Hong Kong's anti-money laundering (AML) ordinance came into effect last April, introducing stricter requirements for bank monitoring of customers and the reporting of suspicious transactions to authorities.

The law empowers the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the de facto central bank, to prosecute or discipline banks for ignoring or assisting in money laundering, including fines of up to HK$1 million ($128,800) and revoking licenses.

(Additional reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Daniel Magnowski)