Three Pakistan internationals “betrayed” the sport of cricket by contaminating it with “rampant corruption”, a court heard today.
Former captain Salman Butt, bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, and their agent Mazhar Majeed, are alleged to have taken part in a “pernicious” spot-fixing conspiracy – motivated “by greed” – during last year’s Test series against England.
In his opening speech of the trial, Aftab Jafferjee, QC, prosecuting, said: “This case reveals a depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of International Cricket, with the key players being members of the Pakistan Cricket team”.
He continued: “The activity of these four men not only contaminated the games which took place and were watched by millions in this country, but it represents a betrayal by them of their own team, their own Board of cricket, and most damaging of all a betrayal of the sport of cricket itself – and all for greed.”
Jurors in the case, being heard at London’s Southwark Crown Court, were told that corruption in cricket is driven by the “breathtaking” amount of money involved in betting in the Asian Subcontinent and Far East – estimated to be worth between $40-50 billion each year.
Mr Jafferjee said the vast amounts of money involved made “spot fixing and match fixing irresistible to some” – at the expense of “the integrity of the game”.
Butt, captain of Pakistan at the time of the allegations, and his agent, Mazhar Majeed, from Croydon, London, were “central” to the conspiracy, it is claimed.
They “orchestrated” and “seduced” Pakistan’s two opening bowlers, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, to bowl three no balls at pre-arranged moments in the Lord’s Test match in August last year, the court heard.
Jurors were told that Amir and Majeed are not part of these proceedings.
Mr Jafferjee revealed that the alleged conspiracy was uncovered by a News of the World sting and praised the journalist involved for using investigative journalism to expose matters of “national and international concern”.
“It was due to the efforts of a journalist with the News of the World that this pernicious and criminal activity was exposed,” he said. “Whatever views one might hold about that publication in light of relatively recent developments, this trial and the role of investigative journalism in this case … was to expose matters of national and international concern.
“Were this investigation not to have been permitted, this activity of fixing would almost certainly have continued – unabated and unaccountable – and beyond the reach of the law.”
Butt and Asif deny two charges of cheating and accepting corrupt payments.
The case continues.