Call girls to be questioned in cricket scandal

British investigators probing cricket’s deepening corruption scandal are to question prostitutes who performed sexual favours for top players agreeing to fix matches.

The women were used by illegal bookmakers to lure some of the game’s best-known players into throwing games or to reward them for under-performing on the field, according to a former Pakistan Test batsman. He alleges prominent players, including national team captains, had sex with the call girls as part of crooked deals that have destroyed cricket’s honourable image.

The prostitutes included a doctor, nurse, travel agent and glamorous TV presenter. All were Australian apart from one Pakistani and a Chinese. Anti-corruption investigators of the International Cricket Council (ICC) led by Sir Paul Condon, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, plan to interview the women next month in Australia.

The revelations come as law enforcement agencies and cricket bodies worldwide intensify efforts to find out how deep-rooted the culture of players throwing matches for money has become in the game. Many big names have already been implicated.

Ex-England captain Alec Stewart has recently been questioned by Condon’s team over claims he received £5 000 for passing information to an Indian bookmaker, which he has denied. Scotland Yard’s Serious Crime Squad is probing claims by ex-England all-rounder Chris Lewis that he was approached by Indian sports promoter Aushim Khertepal to persuade three England colleagues to throw an Old Trafford Test against New Zealand in 1999.

Condon and his team will take a list of 23 prostitutes when they fly to Melbourne for the ICC’s quarterly meeting on February 9 and 10. Condon’s team, composed mostly of ex-senior police officers, will brief cricket’s world governing body on the progress of inquiries before seeking to interview both prostitutes and illicit bookmakers also on the list.

The list has been provided by Qasim Omar, a Pakistani player in the Eighties who appeared in 28 Test matches alongside such greats as Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad. He has told investigators about the sex-for-match-fixing set-up and has provided addresses and telephone numbers of all the women to Condon’s team.

Omar claims that, from the mid-Eighties, the prostitutes were supplied to the players by an Australian bookmaker through two madams in Sydney and that the network of prostitutes for players stretched across Australia from Brisbane to Perth.

A spokesman for the investigating unit confirmed to The Observer that the list will be among the documents it will take, and said: “There are other people we want to speak to, which we will try to do while we are out there. It is an opportunity to speak to as many of these people as possible.”

Omar has also provided information about an identical sex scandal in New Zealand, again organised by a bookmaker, who has also been named. The Pakistani veteran was the first prominent player to blow the whistle on corruption in international cricket in the mid-Eighties. He offered to give the authorities details of who was involved. But he was not asked for information and nothing was done about his claims.

Omar has alleged that an Australian bookmaker lavished money and gifts on players—both Australian and visiting overseas stars—who did what he asked. According to him, batsmen were paid up to £3 600 for throwing their wicket away, and received jewellery, watches, gold pens and bottles of spirits as extra perks.

Omar has named one world-class batsman who was offered £9 000 to throw his wicket away in the first four Tests of a five-match series, and a Test skipper who pocketed bungs for advising the bookmaker about the team he intended to field.

In addition, he has also identified one top Asian bowler who deliberately under-performed in several matches in Australia because he needed the money to finish building a house. He claims deals were struck in hotels, such as the Sheraton in Sydney, a restaurant in the city’s red light district and McDonald’s in Melbourne.

Condon’s investigators will seek to interview Omar, who is now based in Britain, when they return from Australia. The six-strong team, which began its inquiries last September, hopes to present the ICC with an interim report into worldwide cricket corruption by mid-2001. It has been given three years by the ICC to root out corruption and set out how corruption can be banished from the game.

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