TWO separate fixing rackets were running against each other inside a Pakistan team rife with corruption, a court heard today.
A final series of extraordinary claims were made during an explosive last afternoon in court before the judge passes sentence tomorrow.
In some of the most dramatic moments of the trial, Mazhar Majeed, the agent who pleaded guilty to the spot-fixing racket, acknowledged he was facing a jail sentence – and seemed intent on taking the players down with him.
Making his first appearance in the dock, Majeed denied he was the “devil” in the spot-fixing conspiracy – and instead alleged that Salman Butt was its architect. The agent said the former captain approached him to set up the racket two years ago after he became jealous of how other corrupt Pakistan players were making so much money.
Majeed then turned on Mohammad Asif with an even graver allegation – claiming a “bung” of £65,000 was required before the Lord’s Test last year to “buy” his loyalty. Mark Milliken-Smith, representing Majeed, said: “The larger payment to Asif was to ensure the player remained loyal to these players rather than others he might be tempted by.”
Majeed also alleged another player, named in court only as “X” but known to be Kamran Akmal, had not been charged in this conspiracy but was the instigator of the racket, along with Butt.
The claims were met with outrage and strong denials from the dock, where Majeed sat next to his “close friend” Butt, as well as Asif and Mohammad Amir.
The agent blinked repeatedly and appeared close to tears as his lawyer “came clean” about the fixing racket. Butt grew ever more animated and furious as the claims were made, while Asif blew out his cheeks in amazement, with both men turning to face the agent in disbelief.
Lawyers representing the cricketers were also outraged and attempted to ban the reporting of the new allegations – claiming they were deliberately “derogatory”.
However the judge rejected the application because reporters had already used Twitter from court – as they were sanctioned to do from the beginning of the case – to report the news.
Mr Justice Cooke instead turned on Butt’s lawyer and asked: “Perhaps Mr Butt would like to come clean too?”
The judge also accepted that corruption appeared to be rife in the Pakistan camp.
Referring to the teenager, Amir, Mr Justice Cooke said: “[One] inference is that this was such a widespread practice that a newcomer would be infected by the atmosphere and accept that this was the norm.”
Majeed did not offer direct evidence from the witness box but made his allegations through statements offered by his lawyer in mitigation.
It was the first time the trial has heard about the alleged origins of the fixing racket from one of those involved.
Mr Milliken-Smith said Majeed was “absolutely amazed” when Butt, whom at the time he acted for as an agent, approached him about fixing two years ago, the court heard.
Majeed said that the idea emerged during a dinner in the summer of 2009, when the T20 World Cup was being played in England. Butt had complained he was missing out by being “clean” and that he was jealous of all the corrupt players in the team with more money and houses than him in Pakistan.
Butt raised the issue again at a lunch during Pakistan’s notorious tour of Australia in 2009/10 and said he had “two or three” players ready to run a racket. Also present at the meeting was player “X”, known to be Akmal, who was said to have asked whether Majeed could be trusted to help with the fixers.
The same trio met again in the West Indies during the 2010 T20 World Cup, where Butt was said to have claimed there were another “two players ready and wanting to do something that summer”.
Majeed said he was then introduced to a Dubai bookie, called Sanjay, who the players had apparently met during the IPL edition of 2008. A further meeting at a Park Lane hotel in London was described as the “key” moment, where Majeed was installed as the middle man between the players and the corrupt bookmaker. Sanjay told him: “Get your boys ready for the England series,” the court heard.
There was a further chat between Butt, Majeed and Akmal at the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, where the players were apparently in “two minds” about the racket because it was felt Butt could soon be installed as captain.
However when the England tour started, Sanjay and the undercover reporter from the News of the World started pulling the strings on the pitch, it was alleged.
In another remarkable claim, Majeed said that the tabloid’s £150,000 bung was split three ways: £65,000 to Asif, £10,000 to Butt and £2,500 to Amir.
The agent said the money was delivered to the players, despite it not being found by police. Detectives discovered £2,500 of the marked £50 notes in Butt’s hotel room, £1,500 in Amir’s room and nothing of the News of the World cash in Asif’s room. Almost £100,000 is still unaccounted for, the court heard.
Mr Milliken-Smith concluded by saying that it had suited Butt and Asif to make Majeed the “devil” in the case, but he was only “the arranger, not the corrupter”.
Follow RDJ Edwards in court on Twitter – @Cricketer_RDJ