Sri Lanka Cricket and the Pakistan Cricket Board have confirmed that both boards have begun investigations into the allegations that several first-class umpires were willing to influence matches for illegal payments. The claims came to light on Monday, when India TV broadcast a sting alleging that umpires from three countries had agreed to accept money to give decisions favouring certain players.
"Initial investigations are being carried out by our anti-corruption unit," SLC chief executive Ajith Jayasekara told ESPNcricinfo. He also said the SLC had not yet contacted the umpires, as it "would like to know what really is happening before we did anything."
A PCB spokesman also said the board was looking into the situation. "We are in contact with ICC and carrying out a detailed investigation into the matter," he told ESPNcricinfo. "For us it is just a TV report. We have sought the details involved in the matter and it is too early to say anything. The PCB maintains that we have a zero-tolerance policy towards any kind of corruption in cricket at any level."
One of the umpires named by India TV in their programme, Bangladesh's Nadir Shah, denied any involvement in match-fixing. "I was taken to Delhi to sign a contract for umpiring in the Sri Lanka Premier League," he told ESPNcricinfo. "But when I saw these people making match-fixing approaches, I backed off. I didn't do any SLPL matches, as you must know. I was never involved in match-fixing at any level."
Shah told BBC Bangla that he cut off contact once he was approached about fixing. "These are baseless allegations. They said their piece, nobody is listening to what I have to say. When they asked me to fix matches, I said I can't do it," he said. "I didn't let anyone know because I didn't think it would go that far. My agent told me to stop contacting them so when they called me later, I said I am not interested."
The Bangladesh board said it was taking the issue 'very seriously'. "We are collecting all the evidence from the reports that we have seen in the news," Jalal Yunus told reporters in Mirpur. "The board president has told me that there will be an inquiry committee, after which we will come to a decision."
Pakistan's Nadeem Ghauri, another umpire named in the sting, also said he was innocent. "I was approached by some TV channel from India who asked me to do an interview through Skype," Ghauri told reporters in Lahore. "They did ask me about the fixing stuff, but I had nothing to say on the topic. They asked me to come to India and be part of their TV shows.
"I have submitted all details to the PCB about my communication with the caller in India. In fact, the company had been offering me not only TV shows appearances, but also league contracts as umpire. I asked them, on the direction of the PCB, to write me officially about the offer and details of the contract, then we will be able to make a decision. They didn't agree; they asked me to come to India to negotiate contract, which wasn't possible due to the visa process. Hence we had communicated through Skype. But then my Indian friend, umpire Anil Chaudary, told me that this is a fake company and have no office based in India. So I disengaged myself from communicating with them."
The ICC is known to have asked India TV to share the tapes of the undercover operation so that the tapes may be examined by its anti-corruption unit and also studied by member boards in order to understand the content of the sting operation and the context in which all statements were said to be made. The tapes seen on TV on Monday night established that the two umpires who had been linked with two World T20 practice matches, did not officiate in any capacity in those matches, either on or off the field.
The future course of action against the umpires, however, will have to be taken by the home boards under whose jurisdiction these umpires are appointed and operate. While it is possible for the ICC to strongly recommend suspension of the umpires pending investigation, the actual decision of suspending them, however, can only be taken by the home boards who appoint them. The ICC could however take action against an umpire found to be in breach of its code of conduct for umpires in an international match. What it would need though is concrete evidence of this breach of conduct or an individual confession of the same.
In the sting, conducted through July and August, the reporters claimed to belong to a sports management company and promised the umpires officiating assignments in events of all kinds around the world, largely domestic Twenty20 leagues. The reporters, who worked undercover, carried out the sting mainly through interviews and conversations via Skype, an internet videophone service.