Cricket: News Intl hails 'fake sheikh' role in fixing case

1st November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rupert Murdoch's News International hailed the guilty verdicts in the cricket spot-fixing case Tuesday and paid tribute to an investigative reporter dubbed the "fake sheikh" who helped expose the scandal.

Mazher Mahmood's story in August last year in the now-defunct News of the World tabloid led to the convictions of three Pakistan players for their involvement in the betting scam.

The convictions struck a blow from the grave for the weekly tabloid, which was closed in July after 168 years due to a swirl of revelations of phone hacking at the paper.

Media baron Murdoch's News International, the British newspaper publishing arm of his US-based News Corporation, welcomed the convictions.

"The investigation which exposed match fixing by Pakistani cricketers astonished the world and is to the credit of Mazher Mahmood who led the investigation for the News of the World," a spokeswoman said.

"The convictions secured today are a clear example of where his professional investigative journalism has served the public interest."

Mahmood's story sent shockwaves through the world of cricket, a sport founded on fair play ideals.

Former Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt and pace bowler Mahammad Asif were found guilty at London's Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and to cheat at gambling.

Teenage strike bowler Mohammad Aamer pleaded guilty to the charges, the court heard after the trial of Butt and Asif concluded.

Mahmood, considered one of the top investigative reporters in Britain, has moved to News International's weekly broadsheet The Sunday Times.

He gave evidence at the cricketers' trial from behind a screen, to protect his identity.

He told the court the original tip-off for his story came from someone whom he had known for years and whose identity would remain confidential.

Some of the News of the World's greatest scoops were down to Mahmood and his notorious "fake sheikh" stings, with the reporter dressing up as a wealthy Arab to coax indiscretions and admissions out of celebrities and crooks.

"Mahmood, who has been responsible for over 250 criminal prosecutions, has now joined The Sunday Times," the News International spokeswoman said.

"This weekend he exposed a gang that stages car crashes to make false insurance claims which has led to subsequent arrests."

© 2011 AFP

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