Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung has been jailed for six years for money laundering.
Judge Douglas Yau handed down the sentence in Hong Kong after convicting Yeung, 54, of five counts of money laundering earlier this week.
Yeung bought into Birmingham City in 2007 and acquired the rest in 2009.
But he resigned from the parent company – Hong Kong-listed Birmingham International Holdings Ltd (BIHL) – while he awaited the verdict.
It is not yet clear what his conviction and imprisonment means for Birmingham City, though for now the day-to-day running of the club will continue unchanged.
But the case raises difficult questions about how Yeung managed to pass the Premier League’s fit and proper persons test whilst buying the club.
It is the first time that someone still involved in a football club would fail the owners and directors test.
Yeung was found guilty of laundering around £55m through his accounts between 2001 and 2007.
His defence lawyer told the judge that Yeung, who built a business empire that included hair salons, fertiliser and real estate, “came from rags to riches, and he’s likely to return to rags”.
Pleading for a light sentence, his lawyer said there had been “no subterfuge” in Yeung’s business dealings as the accounts in question were held in his own name and his father’s.
Throughout the trial, Yeung and the prosecution painted very different pictures of how the tycoon made his money.
The prosecution says the huge sums of money passed through five accounts from “unknown parties without any apparent reason”.
Yeung insists he accumulated his millions through stock trading, hair salons, business ventures in mainland China and investing in casinos in Macau.
The jailing of Yeung leaves Birmingham fans uncertain about their club’s future, while the club suffered a second blow on Friday when the sale of a stake in the club fell through.
A Beijing advertising firm had agreed to buy a 12% stake in the club for £3.46m but the deal was scrapped after the buyer failed to produce the cash.
Dave Farrell, a board member of Blues Trust, admits the club is in a state of limbo and is seeking urgent dialogue with the Football League as to what repercussions, if any, Yeung’s sentence could have on the club.
And he is keen to determine the extent of Yeung’s influence on the Championship side, admitting there are doubts over whether he can still be referred to as ‘Birmingham’s owner’.
Farrell told Sky Sports News: “As Birmingham City Football Club we are no further on from where we were on Monday, if I am honest.
“Carson Yeung has had his verdict – we expect an appeal – but Birmingham City Football Club hasn’t had a verdict and we have absolutely no idea where we stand.
“We have managed to keep functioning, which has been the amazing thing during the whole situation. Credit to the staff, everyone involved with Birmingham City who have allowed us to be where we are today.
“I don’t see that changing as Lee Clark’s focus is on the football side and our job is to support the club. But there is a mood of apathy and a one of a paralysed state as to what is happening with the club at the moment.
“We had a Football League ruling on Monday which basically said ‘everything is ok, nothing to see here’, which I find incredible. How could they make that decision within one day of what happened on Monday?
“He is still being referred to as Birmingham City’s owner but the Football League disagree with that. The entire UK media refer to him as Birmingham owner, but is that the case? There is definitely some conflict there.
“We have been seeking urgent dialogue with the Football League this week and want to find out what repercussions there could be. We don’t want to open up a can of worms, but our concern has to be Birmingham City Football Club.”