Spot-fixing controversy October 11, 2011

Butt's defence seeks to discredit Majeed

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

The lawyer of former Pakistan captain Salman Butt made his first robust defence of his client by listing a series of amazing claims from Butt's former agent Mazhar Majeed, which included helping Pakistan to ball tamper by supplying them Vaseline on the field.

Ali Bajwa QC attacked the credibility of Majeed as Butt sat in the dock next to former team-mate Mohammed Asif. Bajwa addressed Southwark Crown Court, on the fifth afternoon of the trial relating to one of cricket's biggest controversies, while the prosecution's key witness - journalist Mazhar Mahmood - was in the witness box. Mahmood's multiple secret recordings of conversations with Majeed during a covert operation form much of the prosecution.

Bajwa, reading from various transcripts in front of the jury, picked up on a series of boasts by Majeed. They included: (Majeed speaking to Mahmood) "You know that Zadari killed his wife", referring to the current Pakistan President and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto. She was assassinated in 2007 when left with fatal wounds from an explosion while she stood in a car during a political rally.

The court also heard how Majeed claimed to arrange a £12 million publishing deal for the autobiography of England and Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand, as well as a US$6 million deal for the recent autobiography of now retired Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, whose book rights were sold to Penguin.

Majeed had apparently also told Mahmood that "all Pakistan and India cricketers lie about their age by at least three years" and that he knows "everyone" within the PCB and head of marketing Tariq Hakim "stays at my home - I know all the guys very well".

A claim that also raised eyebrows in the court was the one relating to how he helped the Pakistan team to tamper with the ball. Yasin Patel, on Bajwa's legal team, stood with his left arm in a sling and corroborated with Mahmood the claim made by Majeed.

Patel told of how Majeed claimed to enter the field of play "sometimes" and when the team could not take wicket he used to hand someone a heap of Vaseline so that the ball would swing. There was no suggestion as to whether Majeed was talking about an international match or not.

A prosecution witness appearing in the afternoon, Alan Peacock, who has been a senior investigator for the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit with the ICC for 11 years, said player agents are not allowed to enter the field of play or be allowed access to their dressing, viewing or dining areas during games.

Bajwa also questioned some of Mahmood's methods during his covert operation for the now defunct News of the World and also established that the £140,000 that he paid to Majeed for the no-balls and future fixes was the highest amount of cash he had ever paid in his 20-year career as an investigative journalist.

Bajwa also asked Mahmood why he didn't keep a record of the text messages he sent to Majeed and only kept the replies. Mahmood did not know why. He also appeared perplexed at Mahmood's failure to not know the last time he had spoken to Majeed.

This, after the journalist revealed to the court that he agreed to carry out a request from the police to call Majeed just prior to their raid, to help them ascertain his location. Mahmood will appear for a third consecutive day on Wednesday.

Butt and Asif face charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the Lord's Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with Majeed, teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

The case continues.