Cricket: Pakistan trio facing jail after spot-fixing guilty verdicts
Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir could face jail terms of up to seven years after being convicted of spot-fixing at a trial that laid bare a culture of corruption at the heart of international cricket.
The convictions deal a huge blow to the reputation of the game and the trial could lead to further damaging revelations, with the International Cricket Council set to launch an investigation into corruption allegations heard in court against two other members of the Pakistan touring squad, Kamran Akmal and Wahab Riaz.
Following the four-week trial at Southwark Crown Court in London, Butt and Asif were each found guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat, offences that carry a maximum jail term of seven years.
Amir (19) pleaded guilty to the same offences at a pre-trial hearing two weeks before the case began, a fact not revealed to the jury until they had returned verdicts on his senior colleagues yesterday afternoon after more than 17 hours of deliberation.
At the pre-trial hearing, Ben Emerson QC, representing Amir, said the player had been subject to "extreme pressure" from senior colleagues: "Amir wants to make it clear he wants to take full responsibility for what he did by deliberately bowling two no-balls.
"This vulnerable 18-year-old boy, as he was then, was subjected to extreme pressure from those upon whom he should have been able to rely. He recognised the damage he has caused Pakistan cricket and he wants to do his best to put this right."
Amir will face questions about his guilty plea from trial judge Mr Justice Cooke in court today and will be sentenced alongside Butt and Asif tomorrow.
The convictions mean the trio become the first sportsmen convicted for on-field corruption in a UK court since the 1960s, when three footballers, including two from Sheffield Wednesday, were jailed for throwing matches.
A dramatic day in court began with news that Butt's wife, Gul, had given birth to his second child, a son, at home in Lahore. News reached Butt just an hour before he stood in the dock to hear the verdicts. Butt's father, Zulfiqar, said his son would fight the convictions.
"It is a mixed day for us. We are sad and shocked (at the verdict handed out to Butt) but we are also happy at the birth of the son," he said. "My son is innocent of these charges and we will fight to the end."
The court heard that all three players were part of a conspiracy to bowl no-balls during the Lord's Test against England last year, originally revealed by the 'News of the World'. Undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood filmed Butt's agent Mazhar Majeed, described in court as a conspirator, accepting £140,000 to ensure the no-balls were delivered.
Butt, Asif and Amir were banned earlier this year by the ICC for terms of between five and 10 years, and the ICC will now launch a fresh investigation into Akmal and Riaz.
Both were linked in court to betting scams allegedly organised by Majeed. Akmal's name also came up in correspondence between Majeed and his contacts around the world in evidence collated by police from the early stages of Pakistan's fateful tour of England.
Prosecuting counsel Aftab Jafferjee QC said in court that Akmal had led a "charmed life" to escape investigation. He also said the roles of Riaz and Akmal "raise deep, deep suspicions".
Akmal has not played for Pakistan since the World Cup, although Riaz is in the squad currently playing in Abu Dhabi against Sri Lanka.
Pakistan play England in the United Arab Emirates in January, with the sides set to contest three Tests, four one-day internationals and three Twenty20s.
Detective Superintendent Matthew Horne, who led the police investigation, said he would co-operate with the ICC investigation and was willing to share evidence that until now has been withheld.
"We have been in constant co-operation with the ICC throughout and we will offer them any assistance should they ask for it," he said.
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said he hoped the convictions would act as a deterrent and said all allegations of corruption would be investigated.
"I would reiterate that the ICC has a zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption and that we will use everything within our power to ensure that any suggestion of corrupt activity within our game is comprehensively investigated and, where appropriate, robustly prosecuted," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)