Spot-fixing

Kaneria banned for life by ECB

Alan Gardner and Andrew McGlashan

June 22, 2012

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Danish Kaneria had plenty of work during his first bowl of the summer, Essex v Derbyshire, County Championship, Division Two, Chelmsford, April 18, 2007
Danish Kaneria was banned for life after he was found guilty by an ECB disciplinary panel of inducing his former Essex team-mate Mervyn Westfield to underperform © Getty Images
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Danish Kaneria, the Pakistan legspinner, has been banned for life from any cricket under the jurisdiction of the ECB after being found guilty of corruption by a disciplinary panel in relation to the spot-fixing case involving Mervyn Westfield.

Westfield, a former Essex pace bowler, was also charged with bringing the game into disrepute to which he pleaded guilty and was given a five-year ban, although he will be allowed to play club cricket after three years.

Kaneria's career now seems at an end. Although his punishment was handed out by the ECB, the ICC's anti-corruption code states that decisions based on a domestic board's regulations should be upheld by boards around the world, including the PCB, which will now complete its own integrity committee hearing.

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, said: "It is opportune that the ICC Board meets this week in Kuala Lumpur and I will ask the Board to remind all members to put in place appropriate mechanisms to ensure that the sanctions imposed on both players in this case are appropriately recognised and respected outside of the ECB's domestic jurisdiction."

The PCB indicated ahead of the judgment that they would honour any sanctions handed out by the ECB to Kaneria, who is Pakistan's fourth highest wicket-taker - and leading spinner - in Tests.

In his ruling Gerard Elias QC, chairman of the ECB's cricket discipline commission, said: "We regard Danish Kaneria as a grave danger to the game of cricket and we must take every appropriate step to protect our game from his corrupt activities."

Summing up Kaneria's role, Elias said he exploited his position in the game. "As a senior international player of repute he plainly betrayed the trust reposed in him in his dealings with fellow team-mates and we regard his persistent efforts to recruit spot fixers as being a seriously aggravating factor in his case."

With regard to Westfield, Elias said consideration had been given to the evidence he provided to the hearing, his plea, and his agreement to help with educating cricketers to the danger of spot-fixing in the future, but added that if the offence had been committed in 2012, the ban would have been nine years.

"Let no one underestimate the seriousness of failing to perform - or agreeing so to do - on ones merits," Elias said. "We bear in mind the fact that his conduct occurred in 2009, that he was targeted and pressurised by a senior team-mate. To the ECB's charge he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and is entitled to significant credit for that."

An ECB statement said: "ECB welcomes today's decisions by the disciplinary panel following the hearing held in London. This sends a very clear message to everyone involved in the sport that corrupt activities will not be tolerated and those individuals who are alleged to have breached the ECB's anti-corruption regulations will be fully investigated and where appropriate made subject to the full ECB disciplinary process."

Both players were charged in April, in the wake of Westfield's imprisonment in February. Kaneria was implicated in spot-fixing during Westfield's trial at London's Central Criminal Court but denied the allegations.

At the ECB hearing, which lasted for four days, Westfield gave evidence against Kaneria, revealing details about how the former Pakistan legspinner introduced him to an Indian businessman know as Arun or Anu Bhatt. Kaneria, who had been warned about Bhatt's alleged connections to illegal betting, admitted putting the two in contact but claimed he had been trying to distance himself from Bhatt.

However, phone records showed extensive contact between Kaneria and Bhatt in the days leading up to the September 2009 Pro40 match that Westfield accepted money to underperform in. Kaneria's defence that Westfield was not a credible witness, due to his previous conduct, was also rejected.

The disciplinary panel, which also included David Gabbitass and former England allrounder Jamie Dalrymple, concluded: "Danish Kaneria knowingly induced or encouraged Mervyn Westfield not to perform on his merits in the Durham match." He was accordingly found guilty of both charges brought by the ECB, of attempting to induce Westfield to underperform and of bringing the game into disrepute.

The panel were highly critical of Kaneria's evidence. "We consider that in many respects the evidence of Danish Kaneria simply does not stand up to scrutiny and is plainly lies," read the summary of their findings.

As reported during the trial, Westfield was identified as a squad member susceptible to an approach. Kaneria told him, "You are young and it is hard to make money; I have a way that you can make money quicker", which led to the setting up of meetings with two "Asian businessmen" and a deal being struck for the match against Durham. Further details emerged of various meetings that took place, including at an Essex nightclub and at a hotel before the match in question, when Westfield agreed to concede a set amount of runs from an over.

Conclusions of ECB panel

  • Danish Kaneria knew the activity which Anu Bhatt was engaged in
  • Kaneria acted as a recruiter of spot fixers for Anu Bhatt
  • That Kaneria approached a number of what he saw as potential targets at Essex
  • Kaneria introduced Bhatt to Westfield with the intention that Westfield should be recruited into spot fixing
  • Thereafter, Kaneria cajoled and pressurised Westfield into becoming involved, well knowing that he was young and vulnerable
  • Kaneria was present at the meeting in Durham with Westfield and the two Asian men - one of whom was Anu Bhatt
  • Kaneria was present when Westfield was paid out by the Asian men

It was confirmed that Kaneria had been warned for his links with Bhatt, a man described as being "heavily involved in illegal betting", by the ICC's Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) back in 2008, from which Alan Peacock, the ACSU's senior investigator, provided evidence. Kaneria was revealed to have first met Bhatt in 2005, although he said he came to regard the businessman as a "dangerous" man to be involved with.

The panel, however, disputed Kaneria's suggestion that his contact with Bhatt - who he also provided with tickets for the Durham match - was intended to discourage.

"There is no doubt - and no suggestion to the contrary - that one of the Asian men referred to by Westfield was Anu Bhatt," the summary said. "Indeed, Danish Kaneria admits introducing Westfield to Bhatt in Dukes nightclub and confirms in his evidence that Bhatt was in Durham and attended the match with tickets obtained by Kaneria for him."

Other evidence against Kaneria was provided by former team-mates at Essex, who recounted that he had on more than one occasion "sought to instigate discussion about spot or match fixing". Criticism was also made of the "many other unsatisfactory aspects to Danish Kaneria's evidence", including his "detailed recollections" of events that he had previously been unclear about.

In summing up, the panel said of Kaneria: "We utterly reject his account of the telephone calls and texts to and from Anu Bhatt during the vital days in question. Analysis of the length, sequence and timing of these calls simply does not permit of the innocent explanations given by Kaneria. If, as we find, he is lying about these calls and texts, there can only be one logical reason - to tell the truth would be damning.

"Further, we reject as nonsensical Kaneria's claim that his invitation to Bhatt to attend Dukes nightclub was in order to keep him at arm's length or similarly that obtaining tickets for him in Durham was with the same object. Again, we have no doubt that to tell the truth would implicate Kaneria as the link in the chain between Westfield and Bhatt ... We reject his basic account that he had nothing to do with any arrangement between Westfield and Bhatt - indeed we are sure that he facilitated it."

Westfield was jailed for four months after he admitted to underperforming in a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009. Kaneria, Essex's overseas player for several seasons, was named by the judge at the Old Bailey as the orchestrator of the plot but, although he was arrested at the same time as Westfield in 2010, he was never charged by the police on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

In reference to Westfield, the findings said: "In summary, we are satisfied that in September 2009 he was both vulnerable and naïve - relatively unworldly and unsophisticated. He may well have been going through a phase of self doubt and anxiety - whether objectively justified or not - about his cricketing future."

The panel also recorded that Westfield "was essentially unwavering in evidence" given to support his account and that they felt he was "plainly telling the truth". Westfield will be allowed to return to club cricket after three years, but will remain banned from any level of the county game for another two.

Alan Gardner and Andrew McGlashan are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo

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