Cricket: Pakistani players, agent jailed over fixing scam

3rd November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British judge jailed disgraced former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt, two of his bowlers and their agent Thursday for their part in a Test match-fixing scandal which rocked the international game.

Butt, 27, looked aghast as he was sentenced to 30 months in prison at London's Southwark Crown Court, where he and fast bowler Mohammad Asif were found guilty on Tuesday of fixing parts of a Test match against England in August 2010.

Asif, 28, was jailed for a year, while 19-year-old bowler Mohammad Aamer, who had pleaded guilty to involvement in the scam to pre-arrange no-balls for shadowy South Asian betting rings, was sentenced to six months.

Corrupt British agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, who had also pleaded guilty but had denied he had initiated the scam, was given two years and eight months.

"These offences, regardless of pleas, are so serious that only a sentence of imprisonment will suffice," Judge Jeremy Cooke told the four men, adding that they would each serve half their sentences and then be released on licence.

He said the three players were motivated by greed despite the large amounts of money they could earn legitimately, and said he hoped the tough sentences would deter future cricketers from following their example.

The judge also condemned the effect their actions had on the game of cricket "the very name of which used to be associated with fair dealing".

"It's the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket... which make the offences so serious," he told the court.

Cooke said people had regarded the three players as "heroes", but they "procured the bowling of three no-balls for money to the detriment of your national cricket team".

"Now, whenever people look back on a surprising event in a game or a surprising result or whenever, in the future, there are surprising events or results, followers of the game who paid good money... will be led to wonder whether there has been a fix," he said.

"What was to be honest, sporting competition may not be such at all.

"In Pakistan, where cricket is the national sport, the ordinary follower of the national team feels betrayed by your activities.

"You, Butt, Asif and Aamer have let down all your supporters and followers of the game."

The world of cricket has reacted with dismay to the worst fixing scandal since South Africa captain Hanse Cronje in 2000, but welcomed the convictions as a way of sending an important message that cheats would not be tolerated.

The ICC has already banned Butt for 10 years with five suspended, Asif for seven years with two suspended, and Aamer for five years straight after finding them guilty of corruption in February. They are all appealing the bans.

The scam was uncovered by the now-defunct News of the World, the tabloid owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and shut down in July over a scandal involving its journalists' role in the illegal hacking of voicemails.

At a hearing on Wednesday, lawyers for all the defendants had exchanged claims and counter-allegations in a bid to reduce their clients' sentences, which could have seen them jailed for a maximum of seven years.

Majeed claimed that the extent of the corruption in the Pakistan team went beyond the current case.

The agent's lawyer said he had paid out £65,000 to Asif, £10,000 to Butt and £2,500 to Aamer, explaining that the larger amount was paid to Asif to ensure he did not switch to another fixing racket.

Lawyers for Butt and Asif had dismissed the claims about the cash.

In a statement read to the court, Aamer claimed he had feared for his future in the national side if he did not get involved, but said: "I want to apologise to Pakistan and to everyone that cricket is important to.

"I do know how much damage this has done to the game, the game which I love as well, more than anything else in the world."

© 2011 AFP

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