Pakistan cricketers wait on possible jail sentences

The three Pakistan cricketers convicted of fixing parts of a Test match will find out on Thursday whether they will spend time in jail for their role in the sports’ most serious corruption scandal in more than a decade.

Judge Jeremy Cooke spent Wednesday listening to mitigating statements from lawyers representing Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and sports agent Mazhar Majeed, all of whom have been connected to a betting scam involving the deliberate bowling of no-balls.

Cooke will mull the case overnight before delivering their sentences at London’s Southwark Crown Court at 10am (10am GMT) Thursday.

Former captain Butt and bowler Asif were found guilty on Tuesday of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments. Amir and Majeed pleaded guilty to the charges before the trial.

The latter charge carries a possible jail term of seven years.

In his mitigation, Butt appealed to the judge not to send him to jail because he didn’t want his family to suffer any more. His lawyer Ali Bajwa said Butt had not eaten or slept for 24 hours since his guilty verdict was handed down on Tuesday — an hour after his second son was born in Pakistan.

“He has lost an extraordinary amount,” Bajwa said. “He stands to lose almost the last thing that matters to him, his family. He does not know when he will see his newborn son.”

The 19-year-old Amir’s closing submission, issued through his lawyer Henry Blaxland, was the most remorseful of the three players.

“I got myself into a situation that I didn’t understand,” Amir said via Blaxland, reading from a statement. “I panicked and did the wrong thing. I don’t want to blame anyone else … I didn’t want money at all, I didn’t bowl the no balls because of money. I got trapped and in the end it was because of my own stupidity.”

‘Broken man’
Asif’s lawyer, Alexander Milne, said his client was now “a broken man” who was disgraced in his homeland and should have the opportunity to return home and set about repairing his shamed reputation.

The scandal is cricket’s biggest since South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was banned for life in 2000 for taking bribes from bookmakers.

A murky picture of widespread dishonesty emerged Wednesday as allegations and counter allegations flew between the players and Majeed during their statements, prompting Cooke to declare his belief that fixing was so common within the Pakistan squad that it was regarded as the norm.

Majeed declined to name others involved in the scam despite his guilty plea. He told Cooke, through his lawyer Mark Milliken-Smith, that he did not instigate the fixes but that the players approached him.

“Majeed was having dinner with Butt during the Twenty20 World Cup in England,” Milliken-Smith said. “When having dinner, Butt raised the subject, out of frustration, that other players were at it [fixing] and gave examples of ownership of houses in Pakistan … How can X and Y players have these houses when they don’t earn the same amount of money according to their [Pakistan Cricket Board] contract? He told Majeed that he could even tell when players were doing it during matches.”

‘Keep him loyal’
The lawyer went on to detail how Majeed, Butt and another unnamed player met several times in Australia, the West Indies and Sri Lanka to discuss how they could start to make money from so-called spot-fixing.

Majeed said the players gave him the contact of an Indian bookmaker they had met during the 2008 Indian Premier League. Majeed was to be the middle man between the players and the bookmaker.

The betting scam originally surfaced after Majeed was recorded by an undercover reporter working for the now-defunct News of the World tabloid saying that the three Pakistan players had accepted money to fix betting markets.

Majeed was secretly filmed accepting 150000 pounds ($242000) in cash from the journalist.

After prompting from the judge as to what had happened to the money, Milliken-Smith consulted with Majeed and then revealed: Butt had been paid 10000 ($16000), Amir 2500 ($4000) and Asif 65000 ($104000). The larger amount went to Asif, he said, because they needed to “keep him loyal” and away from other fixing rackets. — Sapa-AP

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