The agent at the centre of the spot-fixing conspiracy boasted that he could fix a Test match for £1 million, a court heard today.
The “breathtaking” scale and money involved in betting rackets was revealed to jurors on the first day of the cricket corruption trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court.
Mazhar Majeed, a sports agent for Pakistan cricketers, boasted to an undercover newspaper reporter that he had six corrupt players in his spot-fixing racket, including the captain, Salman Butt.
Speaking just before the alleged conspiracy was unearthed at the Lord’s Test against England last year, Majeed said: “I’ve been doing it with them for about two-and-a-half years … and we’ve made masses and masses of money”.
Aftab Jafferjee, QC, prosecuting, said that the revelations in the case would make it “well nigh impossible for anyone to watch future games of cricket without a sense of real disquiet.”
Jurors were told that Majeed was tricked by an undercover reporter from the News of the World, posing as an Indian businessman wanting to set up a cricket tournament.
Majeed boasted that he could get former President of Pakistan, General Musharaff, to open the event. Later, when the conversation turned to corruption, he told of his links to Indian betting syndicates who “pay me for the information” and then “make a killing” from spot-fixing.
Majeed claimed that match fixing was more difficult – because of the need to get all the players on board to be certain of the fixed result. But then he claimed that it had been done before – and could be arranged for a fee of £1 million.
The agent added that a one day international or Twenty20 result could be fixed for £400,000, and a “bracket” of 10 overs – used in spread betting – cost £50-80,000 to fix.
To arrange a single no ball or wide to be bowled was “easy”, the court heard, and cosy “only a bit – £10,000”, according to Majeed.
Jurors were told that an ICC anti-corruption official will give evidence that estimates the Asian subcontinent cricket betting market is worth up to £50 billion.
Majeed said his “betting” players were reliable and could be trusted, because he paid them so well out of his corrupt profits.
The prosecution said that the 36-year-old sports agent and businessman from Croydon, London, channelled the “significant” sums of money he made into the businesses he owned – Croydon Athletic Football Club and a chain of ice cream parlours called “Afters”.
He is not on trial at these proceedings.
Butt and opening bowler Mohammad Asif deny the charges against them of cheating and accepting corrupt payments.
Butt claims that three no balls bowled in the Lord’s Test match against England last year were part of a series of “freakish occurrences”.
The court heard that Asif claims it was “just chance” that he bowled a no ball at the exact moment that Majeed had claimed he would to a News of the World journalist posing as a corrupt businessman.
The 28-year-old fast bowler had a “wealth of experience” and was ranked the second best bowler in the world in the summer of 2010, jurors were told. The prosecution allege that he used his experience and “guile” to bowl a deliberate no-ball with his foot only a few inches over the line.
The involvement of teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir was a “tragedy” for cricket, the court heard.
Jurors were told that Amir was one of cricket’s great rising stars – and became the youngest player ever to take 50 Test wickets.
He is not on trial at these proceedings but is part of the overall conspiracy, the prosecution say.
It is claimed that the young bowler was “seduced” and “ensnared” by the Pakistan captain, Salman Butt, to bowl deliberate no balls at specific times during the Lord’s Test in August 2010.
The court was told that Amir was only 18 at the time of the allegations “and in the peak of his bowling form”.
Aftab Jafferjee, prosecuting, said there was “a slight sense of sympathy” for him.
“It maybe difficult – but by no means impossible – to resist being ensnared, when one so young is being seduced into corruption by his own captain,” he said.
Mr Jafferjee said: “It is thus, not only a tragedy for the sport, but a tragedy for him to have participated in this criminal enterprise”.
The case continues.