Tuesday 17 October 2017

Spotlight on 82 games in cricket corruption scandal

Players questioned amid claims tycoon running match-fixing racket

Richard Edwards, Martin Beckford and Murray Wardrop in London

More than 80 international cricket matches will be investigated amid allegations that a London businessman has been running a multi-million-pound match-fixing racket.

The sport was thrown into turmoil after four Pakistan players were questioned as part of a Scotland Yard inquiry into claims they had taken orders from Mazhar Majeed, a British property developer and sports agent, to corrupt a Test match at Lord's.

Sources said the passports of the cricketers under investigation could be seized and that up to seven players could be questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. The rest of the squad could also be interviewed as potential witnesses. Conspiracy to defraud carries a maximum jail term of 10 years.

England's victory to seal the four-match series yesterday was tainted as details of the scandal emerged.

In a tabloid newspaper sting, Mr Majeed claimed he had been running a racket with seven players for "about two-and-a-half years" and added "we've made masses and masses of money".

According to the newspaper, before the game at Lord's, he specifically ordered two Pakistan players to deliver deliberate no-balls, by overstepping the crease as they bowled.

They did so exactly at the moments he pinpointed on Thursday and Friday. Mr Majeed reportedly claimed that by tipping off betting syndicates they could place "spot" bets and make millions of pounds.

He also made more serious claims that he could arrange to have players throw Test matches and one-day internationals, it is alleged.

Tycoon

Mr Majeed, who presents himself as a property tycoon and football club owner, has left thousands of pounds in unpaid bills and a string of companies that have closed in his wake.

Faisal Hameed, a former business partner of Mr Majeed, said three years ago their Croydon-based company Bluesky Developments was dissolved after it began losing money due to the financial crisis.

Sources said the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit would study all 82 Tests and one-day matches played by Pakistan in the period Mr Majeed reportedly claimed to have rigged matches.

They will work with the Metropolitan Police, who are leading the inquiry into the allegation that two bowlers -- Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif -- deliberately bowled no-balls at Lord's after Mr Majeed was handed £150,000 (€182,500).

The team manager confirmed that detectives raided the players' hotel on Saturday night, seizing their mobile phones. Amir, Asif, Salman Butt, the team captain, and Kamran Akmal, the wicketkeeper, have all been questioned and provided statements to police.

Mr Majeed (35) was arrested on Saturday night on conspiracy to defraud bookmakers.

The accounts of Bluesky, and Croydon Athletic football club, a non-league team owned by him, will be studied by detectives. According to reports, Mr Majeed boasted he laundered the proceeds of the match-fixing racket through the club.

A Scotland Yard source said: "The inquiry will focus on the specific allegations about no-balls being bowled deliberately, but we will follow the money trail and see where that leads."

"These are just allegations, anyone can say anything about anyone, that doesn't make them true," Butt said after the game.

Mr Majeed's brother and business partner, Azhar, insisted the allegations were "just rubbish". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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