October 6 2011
– Three top Pakistan cricketers motivated by ‘greed’ were caught red-handed conspiring to fix a Test at Lords in a £150,000 gambling scam, a court was told yesterday.
Former captain Salman Butt ordered two team-mates to bowl no-balls at specific moments in return for cash bribes, it was alleged.
He is accused of acting on the instructions of agent and former football club owner Mazhar Majeed, who took the money from a wealthy Indian businessman.
Accused: Salman Butt, left, and Mohammad Asif deny conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments in relation to a allegation they agreed to fix a Test at Lords Cricket Ground.
Absent: Bowler Mohammad Amir, left, and agent Mazhar Majeed were not in court but the jury was told there was nothing sinister in their absence from Southwark Crown Court in London.
But the businessman was an undercover reporter from the News of the World newspaper, who recorded damning conversations implicating all four men.
Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC said the defendants were deeply involved in ‘rampant corruption’ at the heart of the sport.
He said the men betrayed millions of fans to cash in on a betting industry worth up to £33billion a year on the Asian sub-continent alone.
As many as six Pakistani players were involved in the scam which spanned Pakistan, India, Dubai and Britain, the jury heard.
At court: Mr Butt, centre, arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London. His contract was read out that said cricketers must immediately notify their manager and captain if they are approached by anyone who asks them to fix a match
Mr Jafferjee told Southwark Crown Court that the sums gambled overseas were ‘breathtaking’ and the men were motivated purely by greed.
He said: ‘This case reveals a depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket, with the key players being members of the Pakistan cricket team.
‘There are vast amounts of money to be made in any betting activity if the results are known in advance, and all of that was at the expense of the integrity of the game.’
Allegations of match-fixing shook the sport to the core when the now defunct Sunday newspaper published the revelations in August last year.
Court date: Amir (left) arrives with his laywer. During the time of the alleged scam, and estimated $40bn to $50bn US dollars spent in the Indian sub-continent in one year alone
Butt, 26, is accused of orchestrating the conspiracy with good friend and agent Majeed, 36, who then owned Croydon Athletic Football Club.
Prosecutors claim the two men told star bowlers Mohammad Asif, 29, and Mohammad Amir, 19, to bowl three no-balls at pre-arranged stages of the final Test at Lords.
Bets can be placed on when a bowler delivers a no-ball and the conspirators thought the inside knowledge would enable a Far Eastern gambling syndicate to cash in by betting vast sums on the unlikely turn of events.
But the damning deals and cash hand-outs were captured on hidden cameras used by reporter Mazhar Mahmood, famously known as the ‘fake sheikh’.
Scotland Yard detectives then unravelled a web of phone calls and incriminating text messages between the four men and unidentified fixers in India and Dubai.
The undercover reporter met Majeed on the pretext that he wanted to set up an all-star cricket tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
But their conversations, at hotels and restaurants in London, soon turned to match-fixing.
Majeed boasted that cheating was ‘the greatest business in the world’ and that he had six Pakistan players under his control.
He said a five-day Test could be fixed for £1million, while individual actions during play could cost up to £80,000 each.
A no-ball came with a £10,000 price tag.
The agent was recorded saying: ‘I’ve been doing it with them for about two-and-a-half years and we’ve made masses and masses of money.’
The men face up to seven years in prison if they are convicted of corruption and cheating.
Allegations: The group is accused of trying to fix parts of a test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground last year.
– Chris Greenwood