Pakistan cricketers face prosecution
The three Pakistan players at the centre of the spot-fixing allegations that rocked the Lord's Test against England last August have been charged by the UK Crown Prosecution Service with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat.
Salman Butt, the former Test captain, and seamers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir have been accused of conspiring in the bowling of deliberate no-balls on last year's tour of England - claims they all deny.
Mazhar Majeed, the players' agent, has also been charged, with a first hearing scheduled for City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on March 17. The CPS confirmed that extradition orders would be sought if the three players fail to appear in court, although Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, gave his assurance back in September that the Pakistan government would co-operate fully with the investigation.
"We have authorised charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and also conspiracy to cheat against Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt and Mazhar Majeed," Simon Clements, Head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said.
"We have decided that Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt and their agent, Mazhar Majeed, should be charged with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and also conspiracy to cheat. These charges relate to allegations that Mr Majeed accepted money from a third party to arrange for the players to bowl 'no balls' on 26 and 27 August 2010, during Pakistan's Fourth Test at Lord's Cricket Ground in London."
The CPS confirmed its findings in an announcement shortly after 11am GMT on Friday, and the trio could be banned for life when an International Cricket Council (ICC) tribunal announces the conclusions of its own investigation in Doha on Saturday. A CPS spokesperson said there was no connection between the two timings.
"Summonses for the same court date [March 17] have been issued for the three players and they have been asked to return to this country voluntarily, as they agreed to do in September last year. Their extradition will be sought should they fail to return."
In August 2010, Britain's News of the World tabloid conducted a newspaper 'sting operation' which it said proved the Pakistan trio's willingness were involved in the deliberate bowling of no-balls during the Lord's Test against England.
This, the paper said, was evidence of a spot-betting scam where money can be gambled on specific incidents in a match without the need to 'fix' the result.
All the Pakistan trio were interviewed by police. So too was Majeed, whom the newspaper alleged accepted £50,000 to set up the deal. Majeed was arrested, and a third fast bowler, Wahab Riaz, was also interviewed under caution.
While the ICC, which heard evidence from Butt, Asif and Amir during a hearing in Doha last month, has to consider whether its rules were broken and what, if any, punishment should follow if they were, the CPS has decided that the players have a case to answer under English law.
"The Crown Prosecution Service has been working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service since the allegations of match-fixing became public on 29 August 2010," continued the statement. "We received a full file of evidence on 7 December 2010 and we are satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute.
"I would remind everyone that these men are entitled to a fair trial and should be regarded as innocent of these charges unless it is proven otherwise in court. The International Cricket Council tribunal is due to announce its decision tomorrow, but criminal proceedings are active now. It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice the trial."
Accepting corrupt payments is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and carries a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Cheating is an offence contrary to Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005. It carries a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.