Thursday, 3 November 2011

Cricketers jailed for betting scam

Three Pakistan cricketers and an agent have been jailed over a betting scandal involving bowling deliberate no-balls in a Test match against England at Lord's last summer.

Former captain Salman Butt received a 30-month sentence for leading the plot and fast bowler

Mohammad Asif was given 12 months for delivering one of the fraudulent no-balls.

Butt, 27, and 28-year-old Asif, who had denied the charges, were found guilty on Tuesday of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments over the "spot-fixing" scam.

Teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir, 19, was jailed for six months in a young offenders' institution after he admitted bowling two intentional no-balls.

The corrupt UK-based sports agent at the heart of the scandal, Mazhar Majeed, 36, who pleaded guilty prior to the trial, was jailed for two years and eight months.

The scandal was uncovered by the now-defunct News Of The World.
Majeed was caught in a sting when he took £150,000 from an undercover reporter from the paper to bet on rigged events.

Mazhar Majeed, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt
(L-R) Mazhar Majeed, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt

Majeed promised the reporter Asif and Amir would deliver three no-balls at specific points during the Lord's Test.

The no-balls were bowled exactly as promised. The probability of someone predicting this by chance was estimated by a cricket statistician as 1.5 million-to-one.

A 'no-ball' is an illegal delivery where a bowler's foot crosses the line. A run is awarded to the opposing team and another ball must be bowled.

Majeed's lawyer Mark Milliken-Smith said his client had paid out £65,000 to Asif, £10,000 to Butt and £2,500 to Amir.

He said the largest amount was paid to Asif to ensure he did not switch to another fixing racket.
Mr Milliken-Smith claimed Butt had first raised the idea of "spot-fixing", adding that his client had been "absolutely amazed" when the former captain had sounded him out.

Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Amir bowls a no-ball during Test match against England

Amir bowls a no-ball during Test match against England. Pic: Sky Sports HD

Judge Jeremy Cooke told the four defendants at London's Southwark Crown Court: "These offences, regardless of pleas, are so serious that only a sentence of imprisonment will suffice.

"Each of you will serve half the time imposed in custody and then be released on licence."
The judge said the four had damaged the image and integrity of cricket through their actions.

"The image and integrity of what was once a game but is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skills that you had."

The judge said future cricket matches would forever be tainted by the fixing scandal.

He said: "Followers of the game who have paid good money to watch it live or watch it on television will be left to wonder whether there has been fixing and whether what they have been watching is a genuine contest between bat and ball.

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

As he was led from the dock, Butt looked distant, while Amir showed little reaction as he collected his rucksack.

Asif nodded to a friend in the public gallery before being the last to be taken away.

In a statement read to the court earlier, Amir, 19, said he had been put under pressure to cheat and had feared for his future in the national side if he did not get involved.

He 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."

Butt, Asif and Majeed are expected to begin their sentences at Wandsworth prison in south London.
Amir is due to be sent to Feltham young offenders' institute in west London.

But his barrister, Henry Blaxland QC, said he intended to apply for bail pending an appeal against his sentence.

He said they engaged in corruption in a game whose very name used to be associated with "fair dealing on the sporting field".

"'It's not cricket' was an adage," he said. "It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it that make the offences so serious.



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