Is Cambodian diplomat Wang Yaohui actually Birmingham City’s largest shareholder?
As the EFL and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange investigate… is Cambodian diplomat Wang Yaohui in fact Birmingham City’s largest shareholder?
- EFL and Hong Kong stock exchange investigate Birmingham
- Claims they have failed to properly report who owns the majority stakes in the club
- Wang Yaohui has a checkered past, including separate corruption scandals
The EFL and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange are both investigating whether Birmingham City correctly reported who owns the majority stakes in the club after claims a Chinese businessman, Wang Yaohui, secretly owns some of their shares .
Mr. Wang has a checkered past, including being detained over corruption scandals involving, separately, a copper mine in Zambia and a bank in China. He was never charged, although an associate was sentenced to life in prison.
A company called Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited (BSHL), based in the Cayman Islands but listed on the HKSE, owns 75% of Birmingham.
EFL and Hong Kong Stock Exchange investigate Wang Yaohui’s involvement with Birmingham City
An investigation by broadcaster Radio Free Asia reported that since 2017, Mr Wang has bought just over 17% of BHSL shares, or 12.8% of the club, through a British Virgin Islands company, Dragon Villa Ltd.
RFA uncovered an affidavit from a Taiwanese-American, Jenny Shao, who has provided power of attorney for Mr. Wang since 2009, claiming that Dragon Villa “is the beneficial property of Mr. Wang.”
Ms. Shao is also the CEO of a private airline in Singapore, Gold Star Aviation Pte Ltd, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dragon Villa.
Birmingham City declined to comment on whether or not Wang owned a 40% stake in the club
The RFA investigation detailed how a close associate of Mr. Wang, a Cambodian businessman called Vong Pech, bought 24.9% of BHSL in November 2017, through a company called Gratity Real Estate Development, which Wang recently had. resigned as director.
The Mail on Sunday has asked the Birmingham City hierarchy for a response to the suggestion that Mr Wang could control up to 40% of BHSL shares through Dragon Villa and Graticity Real Estate Development. This would seem to make him the individual with the largest shareholding.
Under EFL rules, clubs are obliged to publish the names of significant shareholders, and the EFL will now ask Birmingham to confirm what role Mr Wang plays in club affairs, if any.
Clubs are obliged to publish the names of significant shareholders and the EFL will now seek clarification on the Cambodian’s involvement in club affairs
An EFL spokesman said: “Anyone who acts as a director of the club or its parent company is subject to the rules and regulations of the EFL and is therefore responsible for ensuring that the club has complied with all obligations relating to any changes in control and/or publication of the true identity of the ultimate beneficial owners of the club.
If Birmingham were found to have breached the rules, the full gamut of potential penalties could be applied, from a warning for clerical oversight to more significant sanctions, including a fine or point deduction for willful obfuscation.
There is no indication of how long an investigation might take, let alone the likelihood of a penalty being imposed.
Mr. Wang was born in China in 1966 but is a naturalized Cambodian citizen and a senior adviser to the Cambodian government. He traveled with a diplomatic passport.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is investigating whether Birmingham have appropriately declared figures with majority stakes in the club
There’s no reason, per se, that he shouldn’t be allowed to own part of Birmingham City Football Club, but any such ownership should be reported to the EFL and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. . If he owns part of the club, he would have to pass the owners and directors test.
An HKSE spokesperson said on Friday: “The matter is now under review.” We will review the concerns you raise and determine, in the circumstances, what is the most appropriate regulatory action for us to take. There will be circumstances where we take no action.
The Mail on Sunday made a further request to Birmingham City asking that, if the board did not believe Wang owned 40% of the club, an explicit denial would be helpful. The club declined to comment. Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited did not respond to questions.