Exclusive: Danish Kaneria charged by ECB

Pakistan and former Essex leg spinner Danish Kaneria has been charged with corruption by the ECB.

The 31-year-old, who remains the highest wicket-taking spinner for Pakistan, faces a worldwide ban from the game if found guilty.

Kaneria was named in a London court as the corrupter of Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield, who has admitted spot-fixing and will also be charged under the disciplinary code.

The landmark case is the first time corruption in the English county game has been prosecuted by cricketing authorities, and comes after a criminal investigation which led to Westfield being jailed for four months.

Daniel Cundy, Westfield’s lawyer, told The Cricketer that a date for the hearing has been set for the first week of May. The formal disciplinary charges were announced by the ECB this afternoon.

A spokesman said: “Mervyn Westfield and Danish Kaneria have been notified that an ECB Disciplinary Panel hearing will take place at which charges will be heard relating to their alleged breaches of the ECB’s anti-corruption directives.

“The charges relate to the corrupt activities which led to Mervyn Westfield’s criminal conviction in February.” .

Westfield will be tagged and released from prison shortly after Easter and will attend the tribunal, where he is expected to plead guilty, as he did at the Old Bailey trial. He will be represented by Cundy.

At his sentencing in February, the fast bowler told the court that it was Kaneria who introduced him to two underworld Asian bookies, and pressurised him into spot-fixing during Natwest Pro40 matches in September 2009 that were being televised across the world.

It also emerged in court that Kaneria had been officially warned by the ICC in April 2008 about keeping “highly inappropriate company” with an Indian bookmaker called Arun Bhatt.

It is not known whether Kaneria, who has strenuously denied all involvement in spot-fixing, will travel to the UK for the case. He has been represented in the past by Time solicitors, based in east London.

Several players are likely to be called to give evidence – including former Essex captain, Mark Pettini, and Tony Palladino, the friend of Westfield who first alerted authorities and now plays for Derbyshire.

Gerard Elias, QC, Chairman of ECB Cricket Discipline Commission, will preside over the hearing, the ECB statement said. He will announce his decision in writing after the hearing.

The commission has power to impose a life ban on Westfield and Kaneria, if found guilty, because their offences would be considered according to the sanctions when they were allegedly committed – in 2009. The anti-corruption code says that a ban imposed by the ECB must be recognised by the ICC and all cricket playing nations.

Westfield will seek a lesser ban, based on his probable guilty plea, his young age at the time of the offence (21) and his prison sentence. At the Old Bailey he would like to take part in programmes to help educate players about corruption, as part of his rehabilitation.

Mark Milliken-Smith, QC, defending Westfield, revealed in court that Westfield was not the only Essex player approached by Kaneria. He had boasted about making money from corrupt bookies in front of Essex’s captain, vice captain, opening batsman and bowler, the court heard. The barrister said that the players at first treated the conversations as a joke, but also suggested they may have deliberately “turned a blind eye” to the claims by their match-winning bowler.

In statements read to the court, Paul Grayson, the coach, admitted that he had heard rumours that Kaneria had asked players if they wanted to meet bookies.

Pettini said that the Pakistani had talked in front of him, vice-captain James Foster, and opening bowler David Masters about how he knew people who would “pay considerable money to influence matches”.

Opening batsman Varun Chopra, now at Warwickshire, also gave a statement in which he said he had been approached by Kaneria to spot-fix, the Pakistani telling him in a telephone call: “There are ways of making money where you don’t have to throw a game”.

None of the players reported Kaneria’s approaches at the time, and said they did not take him seriously. When Pettini said they asked him about it, Kaneria claimed it was a joke.

Westfield, however, was drawn in by the offer of “easy money” and accepted a bung of £6,000 to concede at least 12 runs in his first over against Durham in a 40-over match in September 2009. The bowler said that Kaneria was due to receive £4,000 as part of the corrupt deal for his role as a go-between for two unidentified Asian men, the court heard.

Nine days later, during a night out with teammate Palladino, Westfield showed him a bundle of £50 notes he kept in a plastic bag in his bedroom cupboard, and said it was from fixing, naming Kaneria as the orchestrator.

Palladino mentioned it to other players but it was not until six months later, after an anti-corruption briefing from the Professional Cricketers’ Association, that it was officially reported.

Police were called in and Kaneria was arrested alongside Westfield on suspicion of conspiracy.

Detectives passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service on both men. However senior lawyers decided there was insufficient evidence for a “realistic prospect of conviction” against Kaneria, and he was released without charge six months later.

Westfield, meanwhile, was charged and had protested his innocence for almost two years before making a last-minute guilty plea just as his trial started in January. He was jailed for six months at the hearing in February.

Essex Police have since passed their files to the ECB’s new anti-corruption unit. The burden of proof required is less to press a disciplinary case than criminal charges.

The leg spinner has continued playing first class cricket in Pakistan for Sind, and T20 matches in a domestic league for Karachi Zebras. However the Pakistan Cricket Board have not picked Kaneria to play since 2010. They have said they will co-operate the investigations and await their outcome.
 Kaneria denies all involvement in spot-fixing and has been fighting to clear his name in Pakistan courts. After Westfield was jailed in February, he said: “Westfield is a convicted fraudster and admitted liar. In trying to reduce his own guilt he has tarnished my name. All allegations against me are false.”

There has been no comment from Kaneria yet regarding the charges.

Essex defended their position this week, denying any wrongdoing and saying the game of cricket owed them a debt for the positive actions of players coming forward.

The statement, released at Essex’s annual press day in Chelmsford ahead of today’s opening County Championship game, said: “What the English domestic game has learned since early 2010 and the events that then took place in the late summer of 2010 during the Pakistan tour has fundamentally changed our knowledge and response to the threat of corruption in English domestic cricket. The sport is in a better situation now as a result of greater knowledge, new regulations and better education across the board.

“The game owes a debt to the positive actions taken by the Essex players who came forward. Without them, the corruption that occurred may never have been exposed.”

* Read the trial coverage on The Cricketer website, and follow RDJ Edwards’s tweets @Cricketer_RDJ

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