Evidence linking Cambodian diplomat Wang Yaohui to Birmingham City Football Club is now in the possession of the English Football League, RFA has learned.
The EFL successfully petitioned the Singapore Supreme Court last month for access to records in a case brought against one of Wang’s companies, according to sources familiar with the court’s ruling, who asked not to be identified as they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. The request was made as part of an ongoing league investigation into allegations that Wang secretly controls a significant portion of Birmingham City stock in breach of EFL regulations.
One of the defendants in the Singapore court case is a city-state registered company, Gold Star Aviation Pte Ltd. Company records show that Gold Star Aviation’s sole shareholder is a British Virgin Islands company called Dragon Villa Ltd, which also controls 12.81 percent shares of Birmingham City.
Among the court filings obtained by the EFL is an affidavit made by one of Wang’s most trusted lieutenants, Jenny Shao, who is also a defendant in the case and has held authority over Wang’s affairs for more than a decade. In the affidavit viewed by RFA, Shao states, “Gold Star’s sole shareholder is Dragon Villa Ltd (“DVL”) and DVL is beneficially owned by Mr. Wang.”
As an EFL member playing in the top tier of the league, Birmingham City are required to disclose the identity of anyone who controls more than 10 per cent of its shares. While Dragon Villa occurs in the clubs Declaration of Ownership, not Wang. The disclosure instead describes Dragon Villa as “controlled” by a person named Lei Sutong, who is a director or shareholder of several companies linked to Wang.
The discrepancy between Shao and Birmingham City’s descriptions of Dragon Villa ownership could have serious implications for the club, including possible misconduct charges or points deductions.
A club spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but RFA understands Birmingham City management stands by its disclosure of existing ownership.
Birmingham City’s reassurances do not appear to have satisfied the league, which confirmed in a statement to RFA that their investigation is ongoing.
“Due to our ongoing investigation into the ultimate beneficial ownership of Birmingham City Football Club, we are unable to comment,” an EFL spokesman told RFA via email, commenting anonymously, in accordance with league guidelines.
The league launched his probe in Wang’s ties to the club in early June, after a RFA examination, which found the Chinese-born Cambodian diplomat and adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen controlled a large but undeclared stake in the club through a series of proxies and shell companies. Birmingham City is one of England’s most storied football teams and currently competes in the country’s second tier, just below the elite Premier League.
That the EFL now have Singapore’s court records could explain why an alleged takeover of the club has stalled in recent weeks. Financial problems have long plagued many Birmingham City fans and the stadium is in serious need of repairs longing for new possessions. They may have thought their prayers had been answered when a bid was made last month by former club director Paul Richardson and retired professional footballer Maxi Lopez.
Before a transfer of ownership can take place at a football club playing in one of the three divisions of the EFL, the league must approve the sale. To do this, it needs information from both the buyer and the seller about what the club’s ownership structure will look like after the sale.
registered mail the athlete Last week, football journalist Matt Slater reported that EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said the league had not received enough information “to even consider Richardson and Lopez’s bid”.
While the EFL has not explained exactly what information it has yet to receive, Slater suggested the data deficit lies with the club’s current owners.
“the athlete understands that Richardson and Lopez have submitted as much information as possible at this time,” he wrote. “But the club and its current owners have yet to provide full answers to the league’s standard acquisition questions.”
A RFA analysis calculated last month that Wang and a close relative named Vong Pech together control more than half of Birmingham City’s stock. While Vong’s name appears in the club’s official ownership information, as well as in the stock market filings of its Hong Kong-listed parent company, Wang does not.
Birmingham City owners are now in a bind. It seems the EFL won’t allow them to sell until they offer a little more transparency as to who exactly the owners are. But if they do, they risk sanctions from both the league and Hong Kong authorities.