Pakistan news May 19, 2011

Salman Butt to miss corruption charges hearing

Salman Butt, the former Pakistan captain, will not appear at the Southwark Crown Court in London on Friday as the hearing into corruption charges against three Pakistani players and the player agent Mazhar Majeed gets underway. On Thursday, after some uncertainty and delay over his UK visa, Mohammad Amir, flew to the UK; Mohammad Asif, the third player, is already in the UK.

"Salman will not be in attendance on Friday as he has been excused by the court," Yasin Patel, Butt's UK-based lawyer, told ESPNcricinfo. Patel will appear at what is expected to be an administrative hearing in which the actual date of when the trial starts proper will be set. If the players' lawyers have reached an understanding with the prosecution beforehand, then there should be no issue with the players not appearing for this hearing. Until Wednesday, there was a distinct probability of Amir not attending the hearing, but he changed his mind and flew out on Thursday morning.

Asif, who has consistently acted out of step with the other two players through the course of the fall-out from the spot-fixing scandal, left for the UK on Tuesday. "I am going to London with a clear mind and that is to keep on fighting this case till my innocence is proven," he told reporters as he left.

Along with Majeed, the trio are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the Lord's Test last August in which they allegedly conspired to bowl pre-determined no-balls. The four appeared at a hearing - at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court - on March 17, which set the date and jurisdiction for this hearing and were granted unconditional bail at the time; Majeed was told to surrender his passport.

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 under Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005, carrying a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

They players and their agent were charged after being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives over the alleged scandal in the Test at Lord's last August, following accusations by the News of the World tabloid newspaper.

The three players have already been banned by the ICC, which held a separate inquiry, for periods ranging from five to ten years. All three have, however, already filed appeals against their bans at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo