English Football League to investigate alleged Cambodian ownership links – The Diplomat

Yesterday US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) announced that the English Football League would be investigating Birmingham City Football Club, after RFA published a report claiming that a Cambodian diplomat is in control secretly part of the club’s actions.

The revelation was included in a detailed background investigation of a certain Wang Yaohui, a Chinese-born businessman who worked his way to both Cambodian citizenship and personal enrichment through a network of warm relations with high-ranking members of the ruling party. Party (PCP).

The report, the latest in an excellent series undertaken by journalist Jack Adamović Davies on the covert business activities of Cambodia’s business and political elite, shows how Wang transcended a scandal-ridden career to start a lucrative new life in Cambodia. .

Born in 1966 in chilly Heilongjiang province in northeast China, Wang’s career was marred by scandal, according to the RFA report. He was charged with corruption in connection with a copper mine in Zambia and in connection with a Chinese state bank, for which he was detained and an associate was sentenced to life in prison.

But like many other Chinese businessmen of dubious probity, Wang found green and welcoming pastures in Cambodia, where he moved around 2014 and quickly carved out a lucrative sinecure for himself under the grand canopy of the government of CPC.

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As Davies writes, “Wang used his connections with the Cambodian elite to carve out a new nationality, a new name and a new career. Under his adopted Khmer name, Wan Sokha, he quickly became an “adviser” to Prime Minister Hun Sen and landed a privileged post at the Cambodian Embassy in Singapore, a post he still holds. Wang’s Cambodian connections, particularly with businessman Choeung Sopheap and her husband, longtime CPP senator Lao Meng Khin, have also enabled him to pursue a series of business operations.

Among the findings of the RFA investigation, Wang has a substantial stake in Birmingham City, which he owns through a Hong Kong-listed company called Birmingham Sports Holdings Limited. According to RFA’s investigation, Wang acquired the 8.52% stake in Birmingham Sports Holdings through a British Virgin Islands company called Dragon Villa Ltd. in December 2017.

RFA reports that under English Football League (EFL) regulations, Birmingham City are obliged to disclose both to the league and publicly the identity of anyone who directly or indirectly holds “any significant interest in the club. “. Birmingham’s ownership disclosure does not name Wang, which could lead to sanctions from the EFL. Yesterday the broadcaster confirmed that the EFL were looking into Wang’s ownership of the club’s shares.

Davies’ report on Wang Yaohui tells a number of interesting stories. The first is the rather astonishing way in which the intimate bilateral relations between Beijing and Phnom Penh have harbored a culture of mutually beneficial relations between Chinese businessmen and the Cambodian elite. Among the most prominent is Chen Zhi, the head of the ubiquitous Prince Group, who also took Cambodian citizenship in 2014, the same year as Wang, and is regularly feted by Hun Sen and other senior officials.

Given its rampant corruption and rickety regulatory frameworks, Cambodia has proven particularly hospitable to Chinese businessmen with checkered pasts, which explains the breakneck speed at which the coastal town of Sihanoukville has become a city in gambling boom. But these people are also drawn to loosely regulated jurisdictions in other parts of mainland Southeast Asia, including Laos – home to the infamous Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone – and the interstitial conflict zones of eastern Myanmar, where Chinese businessmen of questionable probity have long flourished.

The second thing the article demonstrates is how the structures of global capitalism – and the armies of lawyers, financial service providers and other officials who serve them – are complicit in the corruption that plagues nations like Cambodia. It’s partly a story of Cambodian venality, but also a story of palm-fringed tax havens, shell companies and fee-paying citizenship in places like Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

Whether or not the English Football League ends up taking action against Wang – and it’s not clear there’s anything illegal about him owning part of Birmingham City, just that the club doesn’t did not disclose it – it demonstrates that the rot of global kleptocracy and tax evasion is a much bigger problem than the actions of specific corrupt elites.

Foreign governments have long rightly criticized the Cambodian government for failing to clamp down on corruption, but its elites enjoy the same structures – offshore tax havens and the safety of the London property market – as their counterparts. in the West. Corruption and kleptocracy at the local level cannot be tackled without deeper structural reform at the global level.

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