Spot-fixing controversy October 24, 2011

Prosecution sets out facts in closing statement

Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court

The prosecution in the alleged spot-fixing trial told a London court of 13 "facts" that it believes prove the guilt of defendants Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif.

On day 14 and into the fourth week of the trial that has become one of the biggest controversies in cricket history, chief prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee QC addressed the jury at Southwark Crown Court with his closing speech, setting out its case in a nutshell.

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 agent Mazhar Majeed, teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

"Shorn of cricketing terminology about mid-on and mid-off, shorn of jargon of attacking shots and defensive shots, this is a case of corruption through the vehicle of a sport," Jafferjee said.

"It is nothing to do with being blinded with the technicalities of cricket. It is no different to a fraudster (manipulating) markets and saying 'you do not understand the market'. You the jury do understand deceit, greed and corrupt practice by some on the inside who are lucky enough, through talent, who have the opportunity to exploit it."

Jafferjee, who was expected to complete his closing speech by mid-afternoon, faced the jury and went through the major factors with which he is spearheading his prosecution.

"Fact number one: There is an old adage. There is no legitimate reason to bowl a no-ball.

"Fact two: Since May 2010, Butt receives texts from Mazhar Majeed and participated in phone conversations with Majeed on matters of fixing. Leave aside whether this is a "joke" or a "tester". He participated in conversations about corruption.

"Fact three: At 11pm on August 25 at the Copthorne Hotel, Majeed told (journalist Mazhar) Mahmood that on the following day these no-balls will happen. Mohammad Amir will bowl a no-ball on the first ball of the third over. He said Asif will bowl a no-ball on the sixth ball of the tenth over. He said Amir will bowl a further no-ball when he bowls round the wicket to the right-hander (Jonathan) Trott. He said the captain is in on it.

"Fact four: Due to adverse weather conditions the third no-ball was unable to be bowled.

"Fact five: Mohammad Amir was the least experienced and youngest one to bowl.

"Fact six: On the first ball of the third over, Mohammad Amir delivers a massive no-ball.

"Fact seven: Mohammad Asif is older and more experienced.

"Fact eight: Mohammad Asif bowls a clear no-ball on the sixth ball of the tenth over.

"Fact nine: (Statistician and prosecution witness David) Kendix has told us that there is nothing in the bowling history or pattern which would enable anyone to predict this would happen.

"Fact ten: On August 26 at 22.11, Majeed told Mahmood that the remaining no-ball will take place on Mohammad Amir's third full over (the next day) on the third ball.

"Fact 11: On August 27 Mohammad Amir is bowling with deadly accuracy and deadly control, the complete antipathies to bowing a no-ball.

"Fact 12: Just before that glaring no-ball, Amir is in conversation with Butt.

"Fact 13: Mohammad Amir bowls another no-ball.

Jafferjee continued, looking at the jury: "These are facts. Ask yourself, against that plain background, who needs to lie in this case? Majeed? Mahmood? Or Butt and Asif? People who commit offences and who are caught and brought to trial have a choice. They can either plead guilty, and get credit for pleading guilty, or they can plead not guilty," adding that those pleading not guilty either believe they have been wrongly charged or they are "trying to pull the wool over the eyes of a jury".

"In this case we have two defendants effectively turning on each other with a view to wriggle out of what each other has done."

He added: "The sad truth in this case is that there are decent things to be said of everybody - perhaps not Majeed. But none of this could have happened without these four people involved. Butt, Asif and Amir were involved. And all for what? Money. More money."

Jafferjee also highlighted an apparent flippant attitude towards fixing from Butt by repeating an answer received from a question during his cross-examination. When speaking to his own counsel, Butt said that corruption in cricket is terrible, is bad for the game, the team and the country.

Although, Jafferjee went on, "when I asked him if cheating could destroy cricket, he then referred to WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and said 'everybody knows it's fixed but it still has a lot of following and viewing'."

The case continues.