Thursday 23 February 2017

Cricket: Butt masterminded fixing scam, claims agent

Robin Scott-Elliot

The agent convicted of corruption in partnership with three Pakistan cricketers claimed yesterday that it was former captain Salman Butt and another unnamed player who first approached him to propose spot-fixing.

He also alleged that the Pakistan squad was surrounded by people looking to corrupt players and that there may have been more than one match-fixing ring involved around the team.

During the first of a two-day sentencing hearing for Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Mazhar Majeed, their British agent whose guilty plea can be reported for the first time, Majeed's defence asserted that their client was the "arranger not the corrupter".

It was also suggested that the Lord's conspiracy for which the four men have been convicted and will be sentenced today, was not the only malpractice spoken of.

All four face the prospect of imprisonment, with Butt, Asif and Majeed's defence accepting that custodial sentences are likely.

Majeed's defence also claimed that it was Asif to whom he gave the bulk of the monies paid by the undercover 'News of the World' journalist to ensure Asif "remained loyal to these people, the players within the dressing-room, rather than others whom he might be tempted by."

The suggestion by Majeed's defence is there was another match-fixing ring in operation and that Asif needed to be paid more to ensure he stayed with the one arranged by Majeed. Asif's lawyers deny the claim.

Asif, said Mark Milliken-Smith, Majeed's QC, received £65,000 in cash, Amir £2,500 and Butt £10,000. The remaining £72,500 was kept by Majeed, although he said it was intended that more would later go to the players. The three players deny all Majeed's claims.

Milliken-Smith said that it was Butt and the other player, who has not been charged, who proposed that they set up "non-match affecting" fixing during the tour of England.

They gave Majeed the number of a man called Sanjay, an Indian bookmaker whom the players had met in 2008.

Majeed was supposed to be the middle-man. He would deal with Sanjay -- police have a number of texts between the men that were not presented during the trial -- and then pass on instructions to the players.

According to Majeed, it was in the summer of 2009 that Butt first broached the subject of match- or spot-fixing. He told Majeed that he knew other players in the team were doing it and could tell when they were doing it. Majeed said that Butt was angry about the amounts of money those players were earning from what they were doing.

As with Majeed, yesterday was also Amir's first appearance in court since the two pleaded guilty to accepting corrupt payments and cheating at gambling on September 16.

His QC read out an emotional letter to the court from Amir in which he apologised to "Pakistan and everyone in cricket".

He wrote: "I do know how much damage this has done to the game I love more than anything else.I did the wrong thing. I was trapped, because of my stupidity. I panicked."

Amir claims he was pressured into bowling two no-balls at Lord's, but not by any of the others in the dock. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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