Spot-fixing controversy October 18, 2011

Butt experiences tough day in court

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

Salman Butt, after experiencing his tenth and most difficult day of the alleged spot-fixing trial yet on Tuesday, was accused by the prosecution of lying to the jury after being forced to answer several awkward and uncomfortable questions.

Butt was in the witness box for over five hours and will have to take the stand again on Wednesday as Aftab Jafferjee QC for the prosecution has not yet even reached the three no-balls in question on which alone the jury have been ordered to base their verdict.

Butt was asked about his little blue book, which was found in the suitcase that police discovered in his hotel room on the night of the raids on the third evening of the Lord's Test. It contained all his scribblings about income, expenditure and money "still to be received" and Jafferjee used the contents of that pocket-sized notepad to grill Butt.

He was asked why it did not mention the £30,000 that Butt was due from an apparent bat sticker deal with Majeed's company Capital Cricket. "It's up to me about what to write and what not to write. It's my diary," Butt replied, becoming agitated many times by Jafferjee's probing. Often he turned to the female interpreter to convey his thoughts when things became very tense.

Jafferjee quizzed Butt on why he withdrew US$181,000 from his Bank Alfalah account in Lahore on the day of his police interview on September 3, days after the scandal had broken in the media. Butt has transferred the amount into his mother's account.

"It might have happened on the same day as my interview but it was not something that I aimed to happen on the same day," Butt answered. "I can't explain why (I withdrew it). You are trying to portray something else, but you don't know anything about the Muslim culture," Butt snapped as Jafferjee continued to poke at the topic.

He added: "We didn't know how long we were going to be here (in England)," Butt said. "We were being investigated by the police and we didn't know if we would be allowed to leave."

Jafferjee also questioned Butt on his relationship with Majeed and asked why he tolerated the agent, even though Butt has revealed to the court that Majeed would send him text messages that suggested Butt would help him fix matches. Butt had already told the jury on Monday that he confronted Majeed about these and the agent said he was testing him. But Jafferjee then raised further text messages that suggested Butt tolerated Majeed's behaviour and concluded they shared a "corrupt relationship".

Jafferjee also quizzed Butt on why he spent so much money on luxury watches. Butt admitted to buying a £12,500 Rolex, a £5,000 Bulgari watch, $6,000 on a Tag Heuer in India while playing in the Indian Premier League - that purchase despite a 40 per cent discount being given - $5,000 on an Omega watch from Dubai and $12,000 on a Breitling. Butt agreed that he liked to buy luxury goods but argued that they were investments because he would make money also when he eventually sold them.

Despite a player-agent relationship spanning about three years, the court heard that the only payment that came from Majeed via a cheque or bank transfer was for £9,600 deposited in Butt's Clydesdale Bank account two days before the Pakistanis arrived in England on June 24, 2010. All other payments would be in cash.

Jafferjee questioned Butt on whether he thought it strange that a global sportswear brand like Adidas would pay him just £800 per appearance yet Majeed was willing to pay him £30,000 for a bat sticker to advertise his company Capital Cricket in 2010, and also £5,000 "to cut a ribbon" - as Jafferjee phrased it - at an ice cream parlour.

Not convinced by Butt's answers, several times Jafferjee accused him of lying to the court, including the time when Butt could not answer why he was in team-mate Wahab Riaz's room after midnight with Kamran Akmal and Azhar Majeed, the brother and business partner of Mazhar.

Butt also accused the Pakistan team security manager Major Najam of lying in his statement, making fun of the official by calling him "007".

The former Pakistan captain and opening batsman Butt and his former team-mate Mohammad Asif are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following that Lord's Test last year when they allegedly conspired with agent Mazhar Majeed, teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

The case continues.