Often Partisan

Carson’s Confiscation Hearing

Edit: 13:10 BST 02 April: I have been told in the last five minutes that the hearing will be adjourned until after the appeal

Carson Yeung is back in court tomorrow to hear if the Hong Kong authorities will be able to confiscate his assets. Carson’s assets were frozen by a restraint order shortly after he was arrested and with his conviction now secured the Department of Justice will move to take them from him.

As ever, I must state the caveat that I am not a trained accountant or lawyer; I have asked questions of people who are qualified to gain an understanding of what will happen. Where something is fact I will state so clearly but I ask you to treat any speculation with the scepticism it deserves.

Will tomorrow see the Chinese Government seize the club?

Simple answer to this question is an emphatic NO.

To begin with, Hong Kong is a Special Autonomous Region of China and as such operates under its own laws and government. It is the HK Department of Justice who will be seeking to confiscate Carson’s assets, not the Chinese judiciary.

Secondly, the DoJ can only seize what is Carson’s. Carson doesn’t own the whole club – he owns a stake in Birmingham International Holdings and it would only be that stake that could be seized.

The restraint order that froze Carson’s assets doesn’t actually “shares in Birmingham International Holdings” as an asset; what it does list is values of share portfolios in various accounts Carson held. One account listed is held by Great Luck Management and the dollar amount is exactly equal to the value of the shares held by Great Luck in BIH on the date listed on the order. Therefore we know for a fact that those shares are restrained. There is another account with Kingston in Carson’s own name that looks to be the shares he held in BIH in his own name but without actually seeing his account details I couldn’t confirm for sure if those shares are restrained – I suspect they are.

There is a further complication in that it appears that Kingston have a charge over those shares and that will need to be satisfied before the DoJ can seize anything – in the same way as the house on Barker Road was repossessed and Wing Hang Bank has first call on the proceeds of the sale of the house with any remainder after they have been paid off going to the DoJ.

Is the confiscation order guaranteed to go through?

This is a tricky question to answer. The prosecution appear to be quite bullish and think that they should be able to push it through; however the defence will no doubt apply for a stay in proceedings pending the outcome of Carson’s appeal. What I think from a lay point of view is that it will come down to how much the judiciary want to throw the book at Carson. I can see why a stay would be refused as the Judiciary also refused Carson to attend his own father’s funeral in 2012; on the flip side I think it would be dangerous to seize and liquidate his assets if the possibility exists he may be able to claim it all back.

What happens if it does go through?

A liquidator will be appointed by the DoJ to receive the assets – he will then sell them on for as much money as he can realise. The authorities have no interest in retaining the assets – so even if they did seize the whole stake Carson has remaining in BIH they would sell it on quickly to gain the cash value.  Thus the prospect of the club being owned by the HK authorities via a stake in BIH is not something we will have to worry about; what I would think from a lay point of view is that if the authorities did seize Carson’s stake in BIH it would definitely affect the sale of the club – and I have no idea if that would be positive or negative.

Can they seize assets that aren’t on the restraint order?

Yes – the DoJ can add to the assets listed if Carson comes into possession of anything else. I have emailed the DoJ to find out if the debt conversion note that Carson has with BIH after his loan was novated will come under the auspices of any restraint/confiscation order but as yet the DoJ have declined to reply to me.

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