x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Shamed cricketers plead for freedom

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif, 28, and Mohammad Amir, 19, will be sentenced today for taking bribes to bowl 'no balls' at specific times during a Test match against England in the summer of last year as part of a betting scam.

LONDON // Lawyers for three Pakistani cricket stars pleaded with a judge in London yesterday not to send their clients to prison for taking part in a match-fixing scam.

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif, 28, and Mohammad Amir, 19, will be sentenced today for taking bribes to bowl "no balls" at specific times during a Test match against England in the summer of last year as part of a betting scam.

The players' British agent, Mazhar Majeed, 36, will also be sentenced for arranging the scam after it was confirmed in court yesterday that he had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of a conspiracy to cheat and accepting corrupt payments.

Butt's lawyer told the court that the scandal had transformed him from "a national hero to a figure of contempt". He pleaded with the judge, Justice (Sir Jeremy) Cooke: "Please don't make my family suffer any more."

Amir's lawyer maintained that he had only become involved in the match fixing during the Test at Lord's but the judge refused to accept this, saying there was evidence that the teenager had played a part in a scam at an earlier Test during the tour of England.

Indeed, it emerged yesterday that evidence of match fixing went far beyond the game at Lord's. Text messages sent by Majeed, who acted as the UK fixer for a worldwide betting syndicate, suggested that some aspects of play were rigged in all four Tests Pakistan played against England last year plus another two against Australia.

The texts, exchanged between Majeed and heads of betting syndicates in Dubai, India and Britain, were gathered by Scotland Yard as they investigated the Lord's Test but were not presented to the trial.

It also emerged yesterday that the Doha-based International Cricket Council (ICC) is now to launch a fresh inquiry into match fixing following the release of the texts.

The texts released yesterday also appeared to implicate Pakistan wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal in match fixing.

Butt and Asif were both found guilty on Tuesday of conspiring to cheat during the Lord's Test and accepting corrupt payments.

The four had conspired to bowl "no balls" at specific times during the game, opening the way for betting syndicates to clean up on the "spot betting" market - where bets are placed on specific incidents happening during the course of play - on the Indian subcontinent.

Secret recordings made by an undercover journalist from the News of the World, which paid Majeed £150,000 (Dh878,463) for the "no balls" information, sparked the police investigation.

Majeed, whose lawyer told the court yesterday that he was the "arranger" rather than the instigator of the scam, has declined to tell police the names of the racket's organisers in either Dubai or Mumbai.

It was also revealed yesterday that £98,000 of the newspaper's money had not been recovered.

 

dsapsted@thenational.ae