Criminal charges may result from allegations of corruption in Australian cricket, the ICC has warned, as an investigation began in earnest in the wake of claims that the ongoing third Ashes Test at the WACA has been targeted by spot-fixers.
According to a report in The Sun, two men asked the newspaper's undercover reporters for up to 140,000 (USD187,000) to "spot fix" markets in the third Test, such as the exact amount of runs scored in an over. No individual players on either team were singled out in the report.
The ICC responded with a statement from Alex Marshall, general manager anti-corruption, who said there was currently "no evidence" that the Perth Test had been corrupted. He later added that the ACSU would be cross-referencing the new information from The Sun with their existing intelligence, and confirmed that they would push for prosecution if it was deemed that offences had taken place in countries, such as Australia, where match-fixing is a criminal offence.
"It is obviously very early stages and our priority on receiving everything from The Sun late last night was to consider whether the integrity of the third Ashes Test had been compromised," said Marshall. "There is no evidence, either from The Sun or via our own intelligence, to suggest the current Test match has been corrupted. At this stage of the investigation, there is no indication that any players in this Test have been in contact with the alleged fixers.
"We are now working through the rest of the information from The Sun as part of what will be a wide-ranging investigation and we will map this against our own existing intelligence and live investigations to look for any corroboration or cross over. We are taking these allegations very seriously and will follow the correct processes of a thorough investigation. We will look for clear and usable evidence that proves or disproves the allegations made. This will include looking for corroboration, speaking to key witnesses and securing all relevant evidential material.
"This will not be concluded overnight and we will be working with ACU colleagues from Member countries to investigate every single allegation in full. We will not be making any comment in relation to the identity of any individual names in the dossier whilst this investigation is ongoing."
"The allegations are wide ranging and relate to various forms cricket in several countries, including T20 tournaments. We will look closely at all the information as part of our investigation. We ask anyone with information about these allegations to get in touch with the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit via email@example.com."
Tomorrow's front page: The Sun has smashed a multi-million pound plot to fix the third Ashes cricket test pic.twitter.com/G0tkRUjlsy
— The Sun (@TheSun) December 13, 2017
The ACSU's sentiments were echoed by England and Australia officials. "Cricket Australia takes a zero-tolerance approach against anybody trying to bring the game into disrepute," said a CA spokesman.
"Cricket Australia will co-operate fully with any ICC Anti-Corruption Unit investigation.
"Australian cricket has a long-standing, proactive approach to sports integrity management and Cricket Australia has a dedicated Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) to prevent corruption within Australian domestic comptetitons, including the BBL.
"In addition to this, all players participating in CA sanctioned competitions, including the BBL, are required to complete an anti-corruption education session before they can compete.
"CA works closely with the ICC ACU on all international fixtures played in Australia.
"Players are able to report any suspicions they have on a confidential basis and in the past there has been a strong Australian player culture to do so."
An ECB spokesman added: "ECB work closely with the ICC and their Anti-Corruption unit to protect the integrity of the international game. We are aware of these allegations and there is no suggestion that any of the England team is involved in any way."
The game's most high profile spot-fixing scandal was broken by the now-defunct News of the World - sister paper to The Sun - in 2010, which led to Pakistan's Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif being given prison sentences for bowling deliberate no-balls in a Test at Lord's.
Marshall confirmed that similar action could be on the cards if deemed appropriate. Recent legislative changes at state and federal levels have made fixing a criminal offence in Australia and New Zealand, while in the UK it is covered under the Bribery Act.
"Nothing has been referred [to the police] as yet because we are still assessing the information," he said. "If we deem that offences have taken place in countries where match-fixing is illegal then yes we will work with the local police and report our concerns and share information to push for prosecution."
"As with any investigation we will use all options available to us should we deem it necessary and appropriate. The ability to download mobile phones is one part of the investigative toolkit for us."
"We are conducting a live investigation and will do that by focusing on the facts, intelligence and evidence at hand. We will be looking in detail at the allegations, looking for any corroboration of what has been alleged, either from the Sun's own investigation or our own intelligence, and we will be examining whether there is any evidence which we can now use and take forward. We will do this without further speculation or comment."
Australia's wicketkeeper Tim Paine said the allegations had not been a distraction to him during the first day of the Test match, and reiterated that he and others in the team had long been educated about the pitfalls of corruption.
"I heard very briefly about it this morning, not a lot else about it," he said. "What I do know is that all of our guys have been educated on that sort of stuff for a long time, I've been contracted since I was 16 and been through it every year, so we certainly know what's right and wrong and I know there's no-one in our team who's involved in any way."