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Umar Farooq in Lahore
February 18, 2012
Danish Kaneria, the Pakistan legspinner, has claimed he played no role in the spot-fixing case in which his former Essex team-mate Mervyn Westfield has been convicted and sentenced to four months in jail. During Westfield's sentencing, Kaneria was named in court as the go-between between Westfield and the bookmakers on whose orders Westfield deliberately conceded a fixed number of runs in an over in a Pro40 match in 2009. However, Kaneria, who is captaining Sind in the Pentangular Cup final, has said he is completely innocent.
"I am completely innocent from day one. All allegations against me are false," a nervous-looking Kaneria said repeatedly, after the opening day's play of the final, in Lahore. "The Essex police cleared me and I have clearance certificates from both the ECB and ICC, so I am not feeling any pressure. I am just enjoying my cricket."
Kaneria later issued a statement that pinned the blame entirely on Westfield, claiming that Westfield had presented himself as "naive and vulnerable" and open to the malign influence of a third party to try to escape a prison sentence.
"Westfield is a convicted fraudster and admitted liar," the statement said. "In trying to reduce his own guilt he has tarnished my name. It was quite clear that Westfield would say anything to avoid a custodial sentence. In court he attempted to portray himself as a naive and vulnerable person who was easily lead astray."
Kaneria and Westfield were both questioned by Essex police in March 2010, regarding a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009. While Westfield was charged with conspiracy to defraud, Kaneria was released on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
Westfield pleaded guilty to spot-fixing charges in January 2012 and was convicted. During his sentencing, Kaneria was named as the middleman in the spot-fixing plot.
Kaneria now faces the possibility of a disciplinary tribunal in England. Essex police will hand over the evidence to the ECB, which will decide whether to hold its own investigation. The maximum penalty, if Kaneria is found guilty, is a lifetime ban from all cricket worldwide.
When asked if he was ready to face an inquiry in England, Kaneria repeated that all allegations against him are false.
The PCB's integrity committee has offered its full cooperation to the ECB, should the England board decide to hold an inquiry. Farogh Naseem, Kaneria's lawyer, played down suggestions that his client had new evidence to answer, saying Kaneria had been cleared by the Essex police and the ICC. "It is Westfield's words against Kaneria and a lot will depend on what evidences he puts before the court against my client," Naseem said.
Kaneria has not been cleared to play for Pakistan since the 2010 Trent Bridge Test against England. He has continued to play domestic cricket in Pakistan. He has persistently pleaded his innocence since the initial arrest and he was selected for a Test series against South Africa in late 2010 before being withdrawn by the PCB because he was not able to obtain the required documentation from Essex police.
Last year he also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court against the PCB's refusal to clear him. The PCB's integrity committee can now obtain the police investigation records against Kaneria.
Edited by Dustin Silgardo