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Alan Gardner at the Royal Courts of Justice
March 6, 2012
Chris Cairns, the retired New Zealand international, has been confronted with allegations of corruption made by former team-mates on the second day of his libel action against the former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi. Cairns, who is suing Modi over a 2010 tweet that claimed the former allrounder was involved in match-fixing during his time in the rival Indian Cricket League (ICL), said that the accusations made him "angry" and "sad".
The High Court in London heard testimony from witness statements of several former players with Chandigarh Lions, the team Cairns captained during his three seasons in the Twenty20 league. The evidence provided in Modi's defence included a claim that Cairns asked a batsman to score "no more than 5 runs" in an innings, and instructed one bowler to bowl no-balls and another to bowl "loosely".
Cairns was also questioned about his work for a diamond trading company and the large sums of money he received from them prior to the third edition of the ICL. The firm, Vijay Dimon, was run by what Cairns described as family friends and he said he regretted them becoming the focus of public interest.
"I didn't realise how intense this would be," Cairns said. "Anything that has Modi attached is significant global news. The initial tweet in 2010 started this and now it's spread like wildfire all over the world. With regards to bringing my friends into this domain, I feel sorry for them."
During his second day on the witness stand - an appearance that ran to almost eight hours in total - Ronald Thwaites QC, representing Modi, accused Cairns of colluding with Dinesh Mongia, a former India international, to "put pressure on younger players to underperform". Mongia, described as Cairns' "co-conspirator", had an unofficial role as vice-captain within the team because of his ability to translate English for the Indian players who didn't speak the language.
The court heard that Rajesh Sharma, a bowler with Chandigarh, said that he had raised concerns about match-fixing during the second edition of the ICL but was told by Cairns and Mongia to keep quiet or he would be removed from the team. Cairns denied such a conversation took place but said that he had spoken to Sharma and two other players about their levels of performance.
Another player, Gaurav Gupta, alleged that he had been told by Mongia that Cairns would give him money for fixing matches. He said in one match he had been told to score five runs or less and that Cairns had told him to "get out now" upon joining Gupta, who had scored four runs at the time, in the middle. Cairns responded by saying: "I would never instruct anyone to do that."
Gupta said it was understood a player could earn 10 Lakhs ($20,000) if they agreed to engage in fixing.
Two other bowlers were also allegedly pressured by Cairns and Mongia. Amit Uniyal said he was told to "bowl loose balls" in order to keep his place in the side, while Love Ablish was allegedly instructed to bowl a no-ball. Cairns denied the claims.
Cairns had his contract terminated after three games of the third edition of the ICL, with his failure to disclose an injury the official reason given. Mongia also left the Chandigarh Lions as the same time.
Modi's defence claims that talk of Cairns' injury was a cover-up to obscure the corruption allegations that had been made against them. Cairns has denied this but faced further questions from Thwaites about his financial situation in 2008, prior to the start of the third edition of the ICL in October.
Bank statements submitted to the court show that Cairns received two separate payments, totalling 600,000 Emirati Dirham ($160,000), into an account in Dubai, where he had set up home with his new wife. The payments, which were made in August and September of 2008, were for Cairns' involvement with Vijay Dimon. He had a verbal agreement to do promotional and sales work for the India-based diamond trader, which also has offices in Dubai and Antwerp.
Thwaites suggested that the transactions were bound to invite scrutiny and questioned the nature of Cairns' involvement with the diamond trade.
"You have drawn suspicion upon yourself," Thwaites said. "You must be aware that to take large payments immediately before a tournament in a country where match-fixing is rife invites suspicion?"
The initial payment, of more than 350,000 AED ($95,000), was for relocation costs, Cairns said, the rest being for appearances at dinners and events. A third payment, bringing the total Cairns received to 900,000 AED ($250,000), was made to the account in 2009, after which his association with Vijay Dimon continued only on an "occasional basis".
However, Thwaites said that the absence of a formal contract with the company "deepens the suspicion you bring upon yourself".
It was also revealed that after Cairns' departure from the ICL - but before Modi's January 2010 tweet - that former Australia wicketkeeper Rod Marsh refused to sign a bat to be auctioned for charity that already bore Cairns' signature, as he did not want to be associated with the allrounder. Cairns accepted this but said he "had it out" with Marsh and that they had resolved their disagreement.
Cairns has previously admitted to being made aware of match-fixing allegations during a hotel meeting with ICL officials on October 26, 2008. He said that the reason for his contract being terminated, however, was due to an ankle injury that prevented him from bowling. Despite repeated questioning, Cairns has denied that the ICL's anti-corruption officer, Howard Beer - who is due to give evidence on Wednesday - was present in the hotel room.
Following the meeting, Cairns said he called his lawyer Andrew Fitch-Holland and asked him to "shut down" the rumours about alleged corruption that had begun to circulate. Fitch-Holland is also scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.
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