Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir today became the first cricketers to be criminally convicted for corruption after being found guilty of spot-fixing at a Lord’s Test match.
Pakistan’s former captain and fast bowlers face jail sentences when they are sentenced on Thursday (November 3). It can now be revealed now that Amir pleaded guilty two weeks before the trial started.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison for all the players, and it is expected all three face short prison terms. Butt and Asif appeared stunned as the foreman of the jury delivered the verdict today after 20 hours of deliberation.
A unanimous guilty decision was reached on both cricketers on the charges of conspiring to cheat. A majority verdict of 10-2 was delivered on Butt and Asif being found guilty of conspiring to accept corrupt payments.
In a further twist Amir, who has not been present at the trial, will appear at a special hearing tomorrow before the judge, with no jury, regarding his sentence. It will determine whether his fixing was confined to the Lord’s Test – the basis upon which his plea was accepted – or whether his corruption ran deeper than a one-off match.
The judge has expressed his concerns that the basis of the plea was too narrow, given the evidence heard in court about Amir’s involvement in the Oval Test match and the fact he was the only cricketer proven to speak directly to alleged bookmakers in Pakistan.
After the hearing, which may last two days, the judge will then sentence Butt, Amir and Asif together, possibly on Thursday afternoon. Mazhar Majeed, the agent who is accepted to have run the conspiracy, is not part of this trial.
The convictions bring to an end the scandal exposed by the News of the World, which stunned the cricket world when it emerged in August 2010. In the Southwark Crown Court trial, jurors were told the players were motivated by “greed” and had “betrayed” the game of cricket by contaminating it with “rampant corruption”.
The jury rejected the claims of Butt and Asif, who pleaded not guilty and said they knew nothing about the no balls conspiracy organised by Majeed.
The case will end the international careers of Asif and Butt, and call into question the future for others alleged to be part of the racket but not prosecuted, such as Kamran Akmal and Wahab Riaz.
The ICC’s anti-corruption unit will be handed all the files of evidence from the Metropolitan Police investigation and trial. They will now consider any new evidence that has emerged before deciding whether to launch official investigations into those named by Majeed as being part of his racket – Akmal, Riaz, Umar Akmal and Imran Farhat. All of them are still part of the Pakistan squad apart from Kamran Akmal, who has not played a Test since Lord’s and recently had his central contract terminated.
The Cricketer can reveal that the fixing racket had been running since Pakistan’s notorious tour of Australia in 2009/10 – and targeted almost every international game in last year’s English summer.
Majeed claimed that match fixing was difficult and therefore cost £1million for a Test, or £400,000 for an ODI or Twenty20 result. Much more popular, he claimed, was to arrange a “bracket” of 10 overs – used in spread betting – costing £50-80,000 to fix. To arrange a single no ball or wide to be bowled was “easy”, Majeed claimed, and cost £10,000.
Follow RDJ Edwards in court on Twitter – @Cricketer_RDJ