English Football League examines files linking Cambodian diplomat to football club

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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 applied to Singapore’s Supreme Court last month to access documents in a case filed against one of Wang’s companies, according to sources familiar with the court’s ruling who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly. The filing was made as part of an ongoing investigation by the league into allegations that Wang secretly controls a significant portion of Birmingham City’s shares, in violation of EFL regulations.

One of the defendants in the Singapore lawsuit is a company registered in the city-state, 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 owns 12.81 percent of the shares. shares of Birmingham City.

Among the court files obtained by the EFL is an affidavit from one of Wang’s most trusted lieutenants, Jenny Shao, who is also a defendant in the case and has held power of attorney over Wang’s affairs for more than a decade. In the affidavit, which RFA has seen, Shao states that “the sole shareholder of Gold Star is Dragon Villa Ltd (“DVL”) and that DVL is beneficially owned by Mr. Wang.”

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As an EFL member playing in the league’s top division, Birmingham City is required to disclose the identity of any person who owns more than 10 percent of its shares. While Dragon Villa is present in the clubs declaration of ownership, Wang not. The disclosure instead describes Dragon Villa as “controlled” by an individual named Lei Sutong, who is a director or shareholder in multiple Wang-affiliated companies.

The discrepancy between Shao and Birmingham City’s descriptions of Dragon Villa’s ownership could have serious consequences for the club, including possible charges of misconduct or points deduction.

A club spokesman has not responded to a request for comment, but RFA understands Birmingham City management support the current ownership disclosure.

Birmingham City’s guarantees do not appear to satisfy the league, which confirmed in a statement to RFA that the investigation is ongoing.

“As a result of our ongoing investigations into the beneficial ownership of Birmingham City Football Club, we are not in a position to comment,” an EFL spokesperson told RFA via email, commenting anonymously in accordance with the policy. of the competition.

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Wang Yaohui’s first Cambodian diplomatic passport with his Khmer name Wan Sokha. The passport was awarded to him in 2015 in recognition of his role as an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The competition launched his probe in early June in Wang’s ties with the club, after a RFA study, who found that the Chinese-born Cambodian diplomat and adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen controlled a large but undisclosed stake in the club through a series of proxies and empty companies. Birmingham City is one of England’s most legendary football teams and currently competes in the second highest tier in the country, just below the elite Premier League.

That the EFL now has its hands on Singapore’s court files may explain why an alleged takeover of the club has stalled in recent weeks. Long plagued by financial difficulties and with its stadium in need of serious repairs, many Birmingham City fans are longing for a new owner. They may have thought their prayers had been answered when an offer 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 that plays 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 seller about what the club’s ownership structure will be after the sale.

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Sign up the athletic 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 offer.

While the EFL hasn’t worked out what information it has yet to receive, Slater suggested the data shortfall lies with the club’s current owners.

the athletic understands that Richardson and Lopez have submitted as much information as possible at this stage,” he wrote. “But the club and their current owners have not yet provided full answers to the league’s standard set of takeover questions.”

A RFA analysis last month calculated that Wang and a close relative named Vong Pech own more than half of Birmingham City’s shares. While Vong’s name does appear in the club’s official ownership disclosures, as well as in its Hong Kong-listed parent company’s stock exchange filings, Wang’s does not.

Birmingham City’s owners are now in trouble. It looks like the EFL won’t allow them to sell until they provide a little more transparency about who exactly the owners are. But if they do, they risk sanctions from both the league and the authorities in Hong Kong.

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