Spot-fixing controversy November 6, 2011

Scotland Yard told the PCB not to punish players

ESPNcricinfo staff

Scotland Yard had stopped the PCB from punishing the three players involved in the spot-fixing scandal that broke out last August in England, fearing that it could prejudice a criminal enquiry being undertaken in the UK, AFP has reported.

The Southwark Crown Court later handed out jail terms to the three players and their agent, who were found guilty in the spot-fixing case. Salman Butt, the former Pakistan captain, was sentenced to two years and six months; Mohammad Asif got a one-year jail sentence and his fellow fast bowler Mohammad Amir six months. Mazhar Majeed, the players' agent, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.

The now-defunct tabloid, the News of the World, exposed the scandal following a sting operation during the team's tour of England in 2010. Scotland Yard had raided the Pakistan team hotel in London and questioned the players but allowed them to leave the country only after the PCB had assured them that the players would return to the country for further investigations.

The Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard had written a letter to Ijaz Butt, the then chairman of the PCB, on September 1, 2010, asking the PCB not to take any action against the players.

"As you know we took the decision not to arrest any of the players when the enquiry commenced; a key part of that decision was that the players would make themselves available for interview at our request," the letter said. "I am fully aware of how seriously you are treating these allegations and understand that you will wish to take your own action in response to them.

"However, as I am sure you are aware, in the UK a police investigation takes precedence over any civil or disciplinary matters and I ask that you do not take any action that may prejudice any criminal enquiry.

"Action that could prejudice a future criminal prosecution could include interviewing players or witnesses or taking any account from them relating to the matter under investigation."

The four accused had been charged with conspiracy to accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat in regard to the Lord's Test against England in August 2010, when three pre-determined no-balls were bowled - two by Amir and one by Asif, orchestrated by Butt and arranged by Majeed. While Amir and Majeed had pleaded guilty before the trial began, Butt and Asif denied the charges and were found guilty by a jury. The lawyers for Salman Butt and Amir announced they would appeal against their sentences on behalf of their clients, while Asif's lawyers were considering appealing against the conviction.