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Richard Sydenham at Southwark Crown Court
November 1, 2011
Harsha Bhogle : Does our society breed corrupt sportsmen?
Saad Shafqat : A harsh lesson for Pakistan to learn
The jury in the spot-fixing trial has found Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif guilty, by a unanimous verdict, on the charge of 'conspiracy to cheat' and guilty by a 10-2 majority decision on the charge of 'conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments'.
The sentences will be pronounced by the judge, Justice Cooke, on Wednesday and Thursday; both players will remain on bail until then. The convictions - reached by the jury of the Southwark Crown Court in London after 16 hours and 56 minutes of debate - carry jail terms - a maximum prison sentence for the acceptance of corrupt payments is seven years in jail, while 'conspiracy to cheat' carries a maximum two-year sentence.
On a historic day for cricket, the world also learnt that Mohammad Amir, the teenage Pakistani fast bowler, had pleaded guilty to the same two charges before the trial began; he will now be given a "Newton Hearing" to decide the quantum of punishment, during which there will be no jury officially present, although they have been given permission to sit in and watch if they wish.
It also emerged that the ACSU was set to investigate more matches on Pakistan's tour of England in 2010, when the incidents central to this case took place.
This particular case focussed on the Lord's Test in August 2010, when Butt and Asif conspired with Majeed, Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls during England's innings. They were exposed by the now defunct British tabloid the News of the World in an undercover sting operation. Majeed was filmed revealing when no-balls would be delivered by the bowlers, footage which was played to the jury early in the trial.
The verdicts were handed in almost four weeks after the trial started, on October 4. Butt, wearing a velvet jacket and shirt without a tie, showed no emotion as the verdicts were read out and stared at the jury stony-faced. An hour earlier, in a bitter twist of fate, his wife Gul Hassan was understood to have given birth to a second son back in Pakistan. Asif, wearing a grey winter coat in the dock, was equally unmoved and neither player said a word or made any obvious facial expression.
The jury were unable to reach a verdict on the "accepting corrupt payments" charge against Asif, and Justice Cooke immediately retired them to deliberate some more in case they could reach a verdict on that fourth charge, which they did after more than three hours.
The unambiguous nature of the verdict was welcomed by the Metropolitan Police. "All I want to say that this is cheating pure and simple," said Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Horne. "They let down everyone that bought a ticket and they let down children when they were role models to those very children who are playing such a special game. I think we all look forward to this game being played in its truest spirit as we go forward from these types of issues. I also acknowledge the role that investigative journalism has played in this case."
Sally Walsh, Senior Lawyer in the Special Crime and Counter-Terrorism Division of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif deliberately and knowingly perverted the course of a cricket match for financial gain... This prosecution shows that match fixing is not just unsportsmanlike but is a serious criminal act.
"People who had paid good money to see a professional and exciting game of cricket on the famous ground at Lord's had no idea that what they were watching was not a true game but one where part of the game had been pre-determined for cash...the jury has decided after hearing all the evidence that what happened on the crease that day was criminal in the true sense of the word."
The players have already been punished by the ICC after a disciplinary hearing in Doha, Qatar, earlier this year. Each was banned from the sport for at least five years. Butt received a further suspended five-year ban and Asif was handed a further two-year suspended sanction.
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, said after the London verdicts were announced that the jury's decisions, as well as Mohammad Amir's own guilty plea, will "have no impact" on the length of the suspensions its own tribunal handed out.
All three players have filed appeals against their bans at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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