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Pakistan’s Butt and Asif guilty of spot-fixing

Former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif were found guilty on Tuesday of involvement in a “spot-fixing” betting scam during a match against England last year.

Butt (27) was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat at gambling, while Asif (28) was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat.

Prosecutors alleged that they conspired with British agent Mazher Majeed and fast bowler Mohammad Aamer to deliver three intentional no-balls during the Lord’s Test between Pakistan and England in August 2010.

The pair were charged after allegations about their involvement in spot-fixing appeared in the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, owned by Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, shortly after the Lord’s Test.

Butt and Asif had both pleaded not guilty.

They sat in silence in the dock as the jury delivered their verdicts after spending nearly 17 hours in deliberations over four days at court during which the judge said he was prepared to accept a 10-2 majority verdict.

The jury have not yet decided whether Asif is guilty of the second charge of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments.

The pair could face jail sentences of up to seven years.

Majeed (36) and Aamer (19) were also charged with the same offences but were not standing trial alongside Butt and Asif.

During the three-week trial the jury heard that vast sums of money could be made by rigging games for betting syndicates, particularly in South Asia, and that the problem was threatening the game of cricket.

Mazher Mahmood, News of the World‘s former investigations editor, known as the “fake sheikh” for his disguises, told the court he had approached Majeed pretending to be an Indian businessman.

Majeed claimed he had at least six Pakistani players working for him and that it would cost between £50 000 and £80 000 to fix a “bracket” — where bets are made on incidents during a given period of play.

But the cost of rigging a result was far more, at £400 000 for a Twenty20, £450 000 for a one-day international and £1-million for Test matches, Majeed allegedly told the reporter.

The agent was secretly filmed accepting £150 000 in cash from the journalist as part of an arrangement to bowl the no-balls and recorded allegedly making arrangements with Butt for the no balls.

Butt told the court that he had ignored his agent’s requests to fix games and had no knowledge of the plan to bowl no balls while admitting that he had failed in his duty to inform cricketing authorities of Majeed’s approach.

Asif said he had bowled a no ball at the exact time the agent had predicted to the News of the World journalist because Butt had told him to run faster moments before his delivery. — AFP

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Danny Kemp
Danny Kemp
The Hague bureau chief, @AFP. Ex-Brussels, London, Paris, Bangkok, Islamabad and Hong Kong

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