In late October 2019 Brendan Taylor reached India. Taylor landed in Mumbai on the invitation of one Mr S (the ICC has not revealed his identity), who wanted to "discuss" with the former Zimbabwe captain the potential to organise a T20 event in Zimbabwe. Taylor had decided to travel to India despite his agent warning him "not to waste his time with [Mr S] as he had a bad feeling about him."
Though the approach sounds similar to how Heath Streak, another former Zimbabwe captain, was lured in, Mr S is not Deepak Aggarwal, the man involved in the Streak case. Taylor was on Friday handed a three-and-a-half year ban from the game, for four breaches of the ICC's anti-corruption code, including a five-month delay in reporting an approach.
Taylor's agent, based in the UK, had spoken to Mr S in September 2019 about the prospects of his client featuring in the Afghanistan Premier League that year. That tournament never took place and Taylor was informed by his agent nothing had materialised from the talks with Mr S.
Nevertheless, Taylor decided to travel to India after getting assurances from Mr S. "In late October 2019 Mr Taylor travelled to India for three nights, four days, at [Mr S's] expense, and met with [Mr S], his family and his associates," the ACU said in a redacted recounting of the case released on Friday by the ICC. "[Mr S] said that he wanted to talk to Mr Taylor about setting up a T20 tournament in Zimbabwe and to discuss potential sponsorships, and would pay Mr Taylor US$15,000 for his time and services during the trip."
In a Twitter post last Monday (January 24) in which he first publicly confessed to the approach, Taylor had said he was a "little wary" about Mr S's offer. But the main reason he travelled to India, he said, was because Zimbabwe Cricket had not paid its players for six months and their future as a Full Member seemed uncertain. Zimbabwe had become the first Full Member to be suspended by the ICC in July, though in mid-October - presumably before Taylor's late October trip - they had that status reinstated.
The ACU findings echo Taylor's tweet in that he immediately told the corruptors he wasn't going to do anything illegal. "Mr Taylor told [Mr S] that "if there's any skullduggery, or dodginess, one, I'm not flying", to which [Mr S] responded "no, we don't work like that. We are legitimate people"," the report says.
USD 35,000 offer for spot-fixing
In his four interviews with the ACU - conducted in 2020 on April 1 and 2, August 17, and December 8 - Taylor would provide further details of his various interactions with Mr S. Soon after landing in India Taylor received a Samsung S10 phone from Mr S because his own phone was "busted". He also got "some new clothes" and was also "provided" with "various things for his entertainment" during his stay in India.
It was just before he was to return to Zimbabwe that Taylor was confronted by Mr S and associates with an offer to make USD 35,000 for "engaging in spot fixing in upcoming matches." According to ACU the offer could have been for Zimbabwe's tours of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in February-March 2020.
"He [Mr S] also told Mr Taylor that he needed another player involved to make the fix happen, and he wanted him to help find this other player," the ACU report says. "[Mr S] then handed over $15,000 in cash to Mr Taylor (as part payment) and told him that he would receive the rest of the money once the fix occurred. Zimbabwe were due to play Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in February and March 2020."
According to the ACU, the first time Taylor contacted them was on March 31, 2020, nearly five months after his India trip. He did not "mention" the "discussion around corruption" with Mr S, though he did admit to receiving USD 15,000 in cash.
"In his initial interviews, Mr Taylor stated that the $15,000 payment was effectively a payment for his services in travelling to India, basically an appearance fee. In subsequent interviews, however, Mr Taylor changed his story and accepted that while he had initially travelled to India believing that he would be paid an appearance fee of US$15,000, at the end of his trip when the payment was actually made to him, it followed a discussion around corruption and a request for him to be involved in corrupting matches in exchange for payment, with the payment being made as a deposit for his involvement in corruption."
Taylor, the ACU concluded, did not fix matches but had taken on Mr S's offer by accepting the money. "Mr Taylor has stated that it was never his intention to carry out any fixing for [Mr S] and he did not do so, however while he initially said no to [Mr S's] approach he ended up agreeing to the offer and accepting the US$ 15,000.
"Mr Taylor said that he did so because he felt he had no choice because after he initially said no, [Mr S] told Mr Taylor that he ([Mr S]) had a compromising video of Mr Taylor which he would release to the media and Mr Taylor's wife unless Mr Taylor did some work with him."
That video was of him "doing cocaine" after the "celebratory dinner" he had with Mr S on his last night in India. Taylor said he "foolishly took the bait", was "cornered" and "willingly walked into a situation" that has changed his life forever.
"Throughout the course of his interviews," the ACU findings note, "Mr Taylor stated that he only accepted the money (i) because it was his appearance fee for travelling to India, and (ii) he felt threatened and scared and he did not know what [Mr S] or his associates would do if he refused the money, so he therefore took the money so he could get out of the room, although he never intended to go through with anything."
Asked to 'block' Mr S, Taylor deletes all correspondence
Taylor was contacted by Mr S once again in mid-March 2020 when he was on Zimbabwe's tour of Bangladesh. Mr S wanted Taylor to "work" for him during that series, which the latter refused - this was the call that prompted him to report the approach.
"Mr Taylor stated that he refused to do any work (which he understood to be a reference to fixing) for [Mr S] to which [Mr S] responded by again threatening to release the video to the TV and radio, as well as his wife. [Mr S] then asked Mr Taylor to return the money and they could call it quits. This was followed up by a message from [Mr S] to Mr Taylor again threatening to release the video because he had refused to do any work for him.
"Following the call he received from [Mr S] in mid-March, Mr Taylor realized that he had to report this matter to the ACU (albeit late). This he did on 31 March 2020. Mr Taylor did not, however, provide full details at that time, including making no mention of any discussion around corruption."
Taylor was told to "block" Mr S and not have any contact, but the ACU said Taylor deleted his entire correspondence with Mr S. "Mr Taylor claimed that he did this in fear of his family finding the messages. As such, the ACU was deprived of the ability to review such messages, which may have been (and probably were) relevant to its investigation."
As for the USD 15,000, the ACU has been told by Taylor that it is being "looked after safely" by a friend. Taylor's ban will expire at midnight on July 25, 2025. But the ACU has put a rider on any return post that.
"Mr Taylor acknowledges and agrees that it is not appropriate for him to retain the US$ 15,000 he received from [Mr S]. In particular, he acknowledges and agrees that neither he, nor his family nor his friends can benefit from this money (whether directly or indirectly) in any way. It is therefore agreed that Mr Taylor's return to participation in cricket following the expiry of his period of Ineligibility is conditional upon him demonstrating, to the ICC's satisfaction, that neither he, nor his family nor any of his friends have benefited (whether directly or indirectly) from this money."
Taylor took cocaine three days before Ireland ODI
On January 25, Taylor got himself admitted to a drugs rehabilitation centre after admitted he had a "problem". He would also confess to the Daily Mail that he failed a dope test in September 2021, the last time he played for Zimbabwe. That was on September 8 last year when Taylor, after the ODI against Ireland in Belfast, submitted a urine sample as part of the in-competition doping test that players regularly undergo.
On October 13, a WADA-accredited laboratory in Cologne certified that Taylor's urine sample contained the cocaine metabolite Benzoylecognine, a prohibited substance as per the ICC's anti-doping code.
On November 30 Taylor was informed by the ICC that if he could prove he had "ingested" the prohibited substance out of competition and it was unrelated to sport performance, he could get a ban of three months, which could further be limited to one month "if he were to satisfactorily complete a Substance of Abuse treatment program approved by the ICC. The other option was for Taylor to get his B sample tested. Taylor accepted the original findings, admitting he had "ingested cocaine on 5 September 2021, three days before he provided his sample, for recreational purposes."
The ICC gave Taylor a month-long ban for the doping violation, which it said would run "concurrently" with the sentence he will serve for breaching the ACU code.