Pakistani cricketers have outdone Pakistani politicians, and this is not Imran Khan stealing the show at Lahore. These are young cricketers who are again in international limelight today, but for entirely wrong reasons. They have been declared corrupt and cheat and conspirators. Pakistanis who believed that those involved in corrupt practices will always go scot-free are in for a huge disappointment. Corruption pays for a short while but those involved in it have to pay dearly. It is amazing that those who are showered with millions, love, admiration and who get limelight for playing cricket are not content with what they get through legal means. They chose to augment their coffers with corrupt practices and eventually lose everything else, even the future opportunity to play and earn decent living. To the embarrassment of the entire country, the former Pakistan captain, Salman Butt, has been found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and accepting corrupt payments in the spot-fixing trial. Butt faces a maximum custodial sentence of seven years. The judge, Mr. Justice Cook, is likely to hand down the sentencing on Thursday.
Ex-sweetheart of Miss V Malik, Mohammad Asif, the former world No2 bowler, has been found guilty of conspiracy to cheat in the fourth Test against England at Lord’s in August 2010 but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of whether he accepted corrupt payments. The judge has sent the jury out to deliberate on that second charge. According to the latest news, the players are said to have shown no reaction in the courtroom and stared straight ahead as the jury made its announcement.
Both were charged after an undercover reporter allegedly recorded the sports agent Mazhar Majeed, now 36, boasting of how he could arrange for Pakistan players to rig games for money, London’s Southwark crown court was told. Over three weeks of evidence, the jury heard that there are huge sums to be made by fixing cricket matches for gambling syndicates. The allegations emerged after the News of the World’s former investigations editor, Mazher Mahmood, approached Majeed in August last year pretending to be a wealthy Indian businessman seeking major international cricketers for a tournament. After gaining the agent’s confidence, the journalist broached the subject of rigging games. Majeed claimed he had been carrying out match-fixing for two and a half years, the court heard, had seven players from Pakistan’s national side working for him, and had made “masses and masses of money”.
According to reports, he told the undercover reporter that fixing part of a match would cost between £50,000-£80,000, but rigging results was much more expensive – around £400,000 for a Twenty20 game and as much as £1m for a five-day Test. The agent was secretly filmed allegedly accepting £150,000 in cash from the journalist as part of an arrangement to rig games.
When the reports about their wrongdoing initially came, Pakistanis were in a state of denial and, as usual, dismissed these reports as Indian conspiracy. It has now been established beyond doubt that these cricketers themselves conspired to defame their nation. They deserve severest-possible punishment for this crime which in Pakistan should be declared as high treason. What they did to themselves, their fans, their country and the game of cricket is simply not cricket.
NDTV has given the details of the developments that led to the verdict against Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, finding them guilty in the spot-fixing case.
Day 1, Tuesday, October 4
Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt arrive early; opening day sees mostly legal arguments between Aftab Jafferjee QC for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Ali Bajwa QC representing Butt and Alexander Milne QC representing Asif. Jury sworn in – six men, six women.
Day 2, Wednesday, October 5
Prosecution begins its opening address to the jury, giving them records of phone and SMS traffic between parties involved. Says case reveals “depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket, with the key players being members of the Pakistan cricket team“.
Day 3, Thursday, October 6
Jury shown video footage of no-balls – without sound/commentary, as agreed. Prosecution details money found: Butt’s room had cash of £14,003 in one spot, and £15,999 in various denominations in envelopes. There was also US$12,617, 24,300 of UAE dirhams, AUS$710, 26,015 Pakistani rupees, $350 Canadian, 440 South African rand – as well as four mobile phones. No NOTW cash found in Asif’s room but £1,500 marked notes in Amir’s room. ACSU official tells court illegal betting market is worth around $1 billion annually.
Day 4, Monday, October 10
Court hears recordings of conversations between Mahmood (NOTW journalist) and Majeed, with Majeed making unsubstantiated allegations. Mahmood then says his (fictitious) bosses are interested in making “big money” from gambling – Majeed says he and the Pakistan players he claims to control have made “masses and masses of money”. Sky Sports statistician says “one in a 1.5 million chance” of three no-balls occurring at pre-determined times in a Test match.
Day 5, Tuesday, October 11
Court hears, through Majeed’s comments captured covertly, that Pakistan cricketers plotted to oust then ODI captain Shahid Afridi from his position by underperforming, in order to promote Test captain Butt to the ODI role as well. Also hears that Majeed was offered $1 million to influence a Pakistan defeat last year at The Oval, a match they eventually won.
Day 6, Wednesday, October 12
Prosecution’s key witness, journalist Mazhar Mahmood, questioned by Asif’s lawyer on whether phone-hacking had gone on during his covert investigation, says he had no idea.
Day 8, Friday, October 14
Police interview recordings show Butt saying he never requested Asif or Amir to cheat and bowl pre-determined no-balls. Bajwa, Butt’s lawyer, sets out the extent of Majeed’s financial issues: Majeed held more than 30 bank accounts and had overdrafts worth £704,000.
Day 9, Monday, October 17
Butt, in the witness stand, tells the court he chose not to report Majeed, his agent, to the authorities even when Majeed asked him for tips to fix matches. Says Majeed sent him text messages to help him fix elements of a game against South Africa at the Twenty20 World Cup in 2010. Bajwa says they “concede” a “criminal conspiracy” between Majeed and Amir but his client Butt was not party to it.
Day 10, Tuesday, October 18
Butt accused by the prosecution of lying to the jury on at least two occasions. Once when quizzed on why Azhar Majeed – Mazhar’s brother and business partner – was in the hotel room of Pakistan Test debutant Wahab Riaz along with Butt and wicketkeeper Kamram Akmal after midnight during The Oval Test, Butt doubted the written evidence read out to the court from Pakistan team security manager Major Najam. After playing a video of the over in which Asif bowled the no-ball in question, Asif’s lawyer Milne accused Butt of pressurizing his client.
Day 11, Wednesday, October 19
Prosecution completes Butt cross-examining by concluding he had “been caught”. The night before the match began, there were 20 calls or texts between Butt and Majeed, 25 between Amir and Majeed and four between Butt, Asif and Amir. Butt is also interrogated on text messages Majeed sent him during the Oval Test when he was trying to fix by having Butt bat out a maiden over, which he subsequently did not do. Not convinced by Butt’s denials at being complicit in Majeed’s plans, Jafferjee says: “You are lying your head off to this jury aren’t you Mr Butt?”
Day 12, Thursday, October 20
Asif in the witness stand, accuses Butt of abusing him (“run faster f*****, have you slept”) before he bowled the second of the three no-balls. Butt’s lawyer Ali Bajwa QC suggests Asif is fabricating his story to justify the no-ball. Bajwa also accuses Asif of “untruthfully downplaying” his relationship with the Majeed brothers. Asif denies taking any money for his no-ball or even having any knowledge that other people had “an interest” in his bowling a no-ball. Also denies prosecution suggestion that he had been “sucked into a web of corruption by Butt and Majeed”.
Day 13, Friday, October 21
Asif suggests Butt had to have been involved with an alleged fix to bowl no-balls in a Test match but stops short of a definitive accusation. “The captain knows. What I have told you the last two days…the captain knows. He is the one who brings them (bowlers) on.”
Day 14, Monday, October 24
Closing speeches begin. Prosecution sets out why the jury should reach a guilty verdict, listing “13 facts that prove guilt”. Defence for Butt says there is “no reliable evidence” to convict him.
Day 15, Tuesday, October 25
Asif’s lawyer Milne urges jury to “follow the money” – no marked News of the World cash was found in Asif’s room during initial police raids on the players’ hotel rooms. “If you follow the money, you will find that it does not lead to Mr Asif,” Milne says. Justice Cooke begins his summing-up in the afternoon, informs the jury they should take it as an agreed fact that Amir and Majeed were involved in the fix – the first official guidance given to the jury as to the parts played in the case by Majeed and Amir. Judge tells the jury: “You should base your decision on the evidence alone and draw inferences, which I mean by drawing common sense conclusions.”
Day 16, Wednesday, October 26
Judge explains to the jury that they needed to consider the fact that Asif had not told the police when under caution last year the reason for his no-ball, which he later gave in court: that Butt had abused him and put him under pressure. Jury asked to consider if this was due to the language barrier or a late invention.
Day 17, Thursday, October 27
Judge completes his summing up of the trial and sends the jury out to make a verdict by midday. The jury are sent home for the day at 4.00pm having failed to reach a quick decision.
Day 18, Friday, October 28
The first full day of the jury’s deliberations and they are again sent home at 4.00pm without reaching a verdict. The main action of the day centred on when the jury returned to court to listen to audio recordings of conversations between Majeed and Mahmood, with Butt featuring in both by speaker phone.
Day 19, Monday, October 31
The jury inform the judge they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, after which the judge asks them for a majority verdict with at least ten of them concurring.
Day 20, Tuesday, November 1
Salman Butt found guilty on both charges – conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat, while Asif is found guilty of conspiracy to cheat, with a hung jury on his second charge.
- Jury considers cricket ‘cheating’ (bbc.co.uk)