Cricket: Pakistan's Butt and Asif guilty of spot-fixing

1st November 2011, Comments 0 comments

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

In a case that rocked the world of cricket, Butt, 27, was convicted by a jury in London of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat at gambling, while Asif, 28, was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat.

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

Butt and Asif 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 Test.

Butt and Asif had both pleaded not guilty.

They sat in silence in the dock as the jury at Southwark Crown Court delivered their verdicts, after spending nearly 17 hours in deliberations over four days.

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

Butt could face a maximum jail sentence of up to seven years while there is a maxium two-year prison term for the charge on which Asif has been found guilty. They are expected to be sentenced later this week.

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

In a further twist, Butt's wife gave birth to a baby boy just 30 minutes before the verdict was delivered, his father said by telephone from Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.

"Salman Butt has a baby boy 30 minutes before the verdict came," Zulfiqar Butt told AFP, without giving the baby's name. It is Butt's first son -- he already has a daughter.

"It's a matter of great grief for us that Butt has been found guilty. We hope the Almighty will bring him out of this trouble because these are very difficult times for him and the family," he added.

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 theatening 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 ($78,000 and $125,000) 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 meanwhile 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.

© 2011 AFP

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