da3839c5be4da210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2010-09Majeed's rise from rags to riches, to centre of sports scandalca3839c5be4da210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Majeed's rise from rags to riches, to centre of sports scandalUntil Mazhar Majeed's world came tumbling down last weekend, his rags-to-riches story had been an inspiration.London<p>LONDON // Until Mazhar Majeed's world came tumbling down last weekend, his rags-to-riches story had been an inspiration.
He was a first-generation Briton from a humble immigrant family from Faisalabad, Pakistan. Apparently by sheer grit, he had become a multimillionaire by age 35.
Mr Majeed seemed to have it all: a £1.8 million (Dh10m) mansion in his home town of Croydon; an Aston Martin, Jaguar and Range Rover parked in the drive; a wife and two young daughters.
Then, on Sunday, the News of the World published its story. Undercover reporters, posing as representatives of an Asian betting cartel, had handed him £150,000 in cash as he promised Pakistani bowlers would deliver three no balls to order in specific overs of last week's Test match in England.
Sure enough, on Thursday and Friday at Lord's, the no balls were bowled on cue, potentially enabling gamblers to make vast profits in the Far East and Subcontinent "spot betting" markets.
On Saturday, the newspaper gave Scotland Yard copies of a video of Mr Majeed sitting in front of a pile of banknotes as he detailed the scam. By the evening, he was leaving his mansion not in a Jaguar but in a police car, under arrest on suspicion of conspiring to defraud bookmakers.
On Sunday, Revenue and Customs officials arrested his wife and older brother and questioned them about money laundering.
Cricket fans, commentators and officials were outraged as Pakistani bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, along with team captain Salman Butt, became the centre of police inquiries. "Our heads are bowed in shame," the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, said.
Yet there had been signs that Mr Majeed - who, with his 49-year-old brother, Azhar, had become commercial agents for several players on the Pakistani team - had been involving himself a little too closely in Pakistan's cricketing affairs.
The anti-corruption unit of the Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC) had him on its "watch list" while Shahid Afridi, who captains Pakistan's one-day side, reportedly warned the Pakistan Cricket Board about the brothers' involvement with the players in June.
Umran Khan, the director of Aces Middle East Sports Management in Dubai, which represents Afridi, told The Daily Telegraph: "Before the tour [of England] kicked off, Shahid Afridi contacted some of the PCB management and made his reservations known about Mazhar Majeed and his brother Azhar.
"He made it clear to the players that they needed to stay away from these characters. Still, I was in the team hotel before the Oval Test earlier this month [August] and I saw some of the players with these two guys in the hotel."
The Majeed brothers, both avid cricket enthusiasts, first started to befriend Pakistan's players during their 2006 England tour. Since then, according to The Guardian, Mazhar has "cemented his role as the players' go-to man in the financially lucrative world of sponsorship deals and marketing opportunities".
Mazhar also became a friend of Farooq Butt, a London-based relative of Salman Butt.
By 2008, when Mr Majeed became a majority shareholder in Croydon Athletic - his local football club - the current Pakistani captain was being sponsored by him.
The closeness of the relationship between the Pakistani players and the Majeeds was cemented with a series of interviews with players that the brothers wrote for pakpassion.net, a website for Pakistani cricket fans.
"I know that they were trying to negotiate legitimate sponsorship deals for Pakistani cricketers, including with English county cricket teams and the bat manufacturer, Gunn & Moore," said Osman Samiuddin, the Pakistan editor for cricinfo.com, a leading cricket news website.
Mazhar Majeed began to host lavish parties and charity events, many of them involving cricket celebrities. In September 2007, he organised a social function for 200 people in Croydon, where the guests included English batsman Mark Ramprakash and former Pakistan team captain Inzamam-Ul-Haq, raising money for a charity founded by Mushtaq Ahmed, the Pakistani bowling legend.
The following year, Mr Majeed arranged a charity cricket match where former England bowler-turned-TV celebrity Phil Tufnell was among the participants.
But by then, the recession had started to ruin Mr Majeed's business empire.
Indeed, although Mr Majeed has continued to live the high life - travelling to Australia last winter for the Pakistan Test series, for instance, and making annual visits to the Pakistan home his father left in 1962 when he emigrated to the UK - company records show that, today, 14 of the 24 companies he has been involved in have been dissolved and two are facing insolvency. Mr Majeed has resigned as a director of six others.
The mainstay of his empire has been Bluesky Developments, a Croydon company that he started in 1999 with his friend, Faisal Hameed, the son of a successful businessman from nearby South Norwood. Initially, the pair renovated derelict houses in the area but within a few years had moved into much larger property developments, backed by some of Britain's biggest banks.
Members of the ethnic Pakistani community in Croydon said that Mr Majeed lived in his parents' small house until about 2003. "He was an ordinary bloke without a job, living with his mum and taking jobseeker's allowance," said a former neighbour.
But Mr Majeed's fortunes progressively increased as Bluesky attracted investors from all over the world as the company capitalised on Britain's property boom.
The downturn of the past two years, though, has taken its toll. With mounting debts forcing the closure of several of his businesses, Mr Majeed, who had attended a local high school before studying business at Middlesex University, now appears to concentrate on a scaled-down property business and a betting shop he owns.
Faisal Hameed admits that he has been shocked at the allegation levelled against his former business partner.
"I was totally shocked when I switched on the news and heard what Majeed has been up to. I have always known him as a great guy and a straight-up, totally legitimate businessman, so I found it very hard to believe that he had got involved in something like this," he said.
Mr Hameed speculated that Mr Majeed concluded he could make some easy money and "the temptation was too great for him".