5 Oct 2011

Pakistan cricket ‘spot-fixing’ trial starts

Prosecutors who accuse two top Pakistan cricketers of taking bribes to bowl no-balls in a match against England say it exposes the ‘rampant corruption’ at the heart of the game, a court has been told.

Former captain Salman Butt, 26 (left), and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28 (below right), arrived at Southwark Crown Court charged with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and with conspiracy to cheat at gambling.

Salman Butt (Reuters)

The pair, who both deny the charges, are accused of deliberately bowling no-balls during England’s fourth test against Pakistan at Lord’s cricket ground in London in August 2010.

“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,” prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC told the court.

“Those involved in this plot – which is effectively what a conspiracy is – lent themselves willingly, and for financial gain, to fix not just the outcome of the match but in particular, aspects within each match on a day-by-day basis,” the jury heard.

Mohammad Asif (Reuters)

Mr Jafferjee went on to tell the court the cricketers’ alleged corrupt activities were “underpinned” by the overseas betting industry in the sub-continent.

“There are of course 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,” he said.

The allegations centre on a News of the World investigation by the undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood.

Accepting corrupt payments is an offence that carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment and an unlimited fine, whilst cheating is an offence that carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

A jury of seven men and five women was selected and sworn in yesterday.

Potential jurors were asked if they or their families worked in the gambling industry, earned money from professional cricket or had ever been employed in journalism.

The trial is expected to last up to five weeks.