Spot-fixing trial: News of the World ‘bung’ money found inside Salman Butt’s hotel room

Scotland Yard detectives found £31,000 cash in the London hotel room of Salman Butt, including a large bundle of £50 notes from the News of the World, a court heard today.

Police investigating alleged spot-fixing in last year’s Test series between Pakistan and England raided several players rooms during the Lord’s Test, jurors at the cricket corruption trial were told.

Secretly marked £50 notes given by a reporter as a bung to the players’ agent, Mazhar Majeed, were discovered in the rooms of the captain, Butt, and bowler Mohammad Amir.

Meanwhile it emerged that Majeed was not only dealing in no-balls with the undercover tabloid journalist, but also at least three other underworld figures trying to fix other events during the match.

On a dramatic third day of the trial at Southwark Crown Court, the ICC’s chief anti-corruption investigator, Ravi Sawani, also disclosed the vast £50 billion scale of illegal betting in cricket each year.

Aftab Jafferjee, QC, prosecuting, said “It is as if the sport simply is there as a vehicle with which money is to be made by fixing aspects of the game.”

The court heard that in Butt’s London hotel room where he stayed during the Lord’s Test, £31,000 cash was inside an attaché case, hidden within a locked suitcase. Butt claimed it belonged to his wife.

It included £2,500 of the money given by the News of the World as a bung to Butt’s agent, Majeed, in secretly marked £50 notes.

Four mobile phones were recovered and £16,000 of the money was in foreign denominations – US dollars, UAE Dhirams, South African Rand, Australian dollars, Pakistan rupees and Canadian dollars.

Butt told police that £5,000 of the cash was for attending the opening of an ice cream parlour in Tooting, south London, as a favour for Majeed. He said he also kept a large amount of cash on him because his sisters were coming to London to buy clothes for their forthcoming weddings.

Another substantial sum, he said, was an advance for a sponsorship deal with Capital Cricket, and the rest was from his daily allowances.

Butt had told Scotland Yard detectives he was “shocked” by the fixing allegations and that he “loved his country” and was “proud to play for it”. He said there was “no culture of cheating” in the Pakistan team and the no balls that Majeed predicted to an undercover journalist were a “freak occurrence”.

As the details were read out in court today,  Butt sat in the dock, watching the prosecutor intently, and folding his arms.

In Mohammad Amir’s room, police found £9,500 in four envelopes and a safe, including £1,500 of the News of the World money. He claimed the cash was his allowance on tour of £800 a week.

There was £8,000 found in Mohammad Asif’s room, kept in his rucksack. None of it was from the News of the World. Asif explained it was his daily allowance and some money he had for “wedding shopping”.

Earlier in court, jurors were shown footage of Majeed being handed £140,000 of cash in batches of £50 by the undercover reporter, posing as a businessman, on the eve of the Lord’s Test match last year.

He laid it out in three long lines on a table in front of him, and counted one of the bundles. Majeed is then seen on camera telling the journalist exactly when three no-balls will be bowled by Amir and Asif the next day.

The jury were shown tapes of the action from Lord’s, pausing to see Amir’s “enormous” overstepping of the popping crease and Asif’s no ball ,which was “more subtle but still a long way over the line”, according to the prosecution.

Even after Amir was tearing through England’s top order, taking three wickets in nine balls, he still stuck to the arrangement, the prosecution said. Just before he was due to bowl a third deliberate no-ball, the captain Butt ran in from his fielding position to have a quiet word with him. Then the young left-arm paceman delivered the no-ball.

Dozens of calls and texts going back and forth between Amir, Asif, Butt and Majeed during the Lord’s Test were revealed to the court.

In one flurry of activity, Majeed called Amir at 1.30am, 3am and 6am on the first day of the Test.

It emerged that the agent was not only dealing with the News of the World bogus businessman, but at least three other underworld figures trying to fix events during the match.

One of them has been referred to in court as the head of a “shady” Indian syndicate. Majeed made dozens of calls to the unidentified man, and claimed that “my guy in India makes £40-50,000” on every fixed no-ball.

Jurors were told there was also a lot of very suspicious phone traffic to a UK mobile number, whose owner has not been identified.

And police recovered a message sent over the internet by Majeed to a third mystery corrupt backer, discussing arranging a fixed “bowling bracket” at Lord’s on the second day’s play.

Mr Jafferjee, prosecuting, said: “What is revealing is that there has been an arrangement involving Majeed outside the no-ball arrangement with the journalist, involving fixing.”

At the end of the third day in court, Ravi Sawani, the ICC’s anti corruption chief investigator, was the first witness called in the case.

He said that “mafia and underworld dons” in Mumbai, Dubai, Karachi and London run an extraordinary racket worth in his “conservative” estimation £50 billion a year.

Sawani added that £1 billion alone could be bet illegally on a one-day international between India and Pakistan.

He described how corruption increased dramatically after mobile phones and televised cricket became the norm, and that the style of betting changed considerably from waging on the results of matches to what he described as “session betting”.

Mr Sawani said there were specialist telephone lines set up by illegal bookmakers than ran continuously throughout a match, and allowed punters to bet 10 seconds before an event was about to happen.

He said that debts to a bookmaker were “enforced by the mafia itself – so there are no defaulters”.

Butt and Asif deny two charges of cheating and corruption relating to the Lord’s Test, and Amir and Majeed are not on trial in these proceedings. The case continues and has been adjourned until Monday.

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