The News of the World was in court again yesterday – but this time in the witness stand rather than the dock. Mazher Mahmood, the former star undercover reporter at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct Sunday title, was giving evidence in the trial of two Pakistani cricketers accused of match fixing. The allegations first came to light in a front page story he wrote for the paper in August last year.
Mahmood – often called the "Fake Sheikh" for his notorious Middle Eastern disguises – appeared behind a screen, barred from all but the judge and jury, to protect his identity. The judge had earlier cleared the courtroom at Southwark Crown Court so nobody in the public gallery could see him enter or leave.
Prosecutors allege that cricket agent Mazher Majeed, 36, from Croydon, south London, conspired with Pakistan's former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, to fix parts of the Lord's Test between England and Pakistan in August 2010. Butt and Asif deny conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.
The jury was played taped recordings made by Mahmood detailing a series of meetings he had with Mr Majeed, who claimed to represent Butt and Asif as well as other Pakistani players.
In the tapes, Mr Majeed told the undercover reporter: "I've been doing this with the Pakistani team now for about two-and-a-half years, and we've made masses and masses of money. You can make absolute millions." The agent said his players did not often fix the outcomes of matches, but added: "We're doing two results coming up soon, within a month."
He went on to say that, were the pair to come to an agreement, information on a "bracket" – a period of the game in which players played in a pre-arranged way – would cost up to £80,000. The result of a Twenty20 game cost £400,000, a one-day international £450,000 and Test Match £1m. The trial continues.