Judge rejects cricketer's fix claim

 

A judge has rejected disgraced teenage Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Amir's claim that he was only involved in fixing one match.

Fast bowler Amir, 19, pleaded guilty to plotting to bowl deliberate no-balls in the Lord's Test against England last summer - but insisted this was "an isolated and one-off event".

However, Mr Justice Cooke ruled at London's Southwark Crown Court today that text messages sent from shadowy contacts in Pakistan suggest the young cricketer was also implicated in fixing during the earlier Oval Test.

Amir's lawyers agreed a basis of plea with prosecutors when he admitted conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments at a pre-trial hearing in September.

This noted: "The defendant's involvement was limited to the final Test match at Lord's on August 26 and 27.

"This was the defendant's first and only involvement, and was therefore an isolated and one-off event.

"The defendant only became involved as a result of pressure (not amounting to physical threats) and influence to the effect that if he did not become involved, he would suffer serious professional implications for his future career."

But the judge dismissed Amir's claim that he was not involved in fixing before the game at Lord's in north London.

"I refuse to accept that basis of plea on the material I have seen," he told the court.

"There are certainly texts and the like which suggest that Amir's first and only involvement was not limited to Lord's, it was not an isolated and one-off event.

"What I have in mind are the various texts relating to the Oval Test."

Amir plotted with Pakistan's former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, and corrupt London-based sports agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, to bowl three deliberate no-balls in the Lord's Test as part of a lucrative betting scam, the court has heard.

The trial of Butt and Asif - who were yesterday convicted of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments - heard that suspicious text messages were sent between Amir and associates in Pakistan on the eve of the Oval Test between August 18 and 21 last year.

Just after midnight on August 17 Amir sent his bank details to a contact in Pakistan, whom he texted again in a panic after the match-fixing scandal broke on August 28 asking for details of his calls to be deleted.

The teenage bowler also texted another Pakistan number before the Oval match, asking, "How much and what needs to be done?" and then confirming, "So in first three, bowl however you want, and in the last two, do eight runs?"

A text from an Indian number to Majeed in the early hours of the first day of the game appears to implicate Amir in fixing "brackets", a set period of a game on which punters bet, for example, how many runs will be scored.

The message read: "Kami (wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal) and Aamer (Amir) minimum 13 of first three overs after Kami gives an indication by change of gloves with no wkt (wicket). It starts from round of overs, say 35 or 40, whichever is first after they come in together. Next seven overs, maximum 15 runs."

Amir and Majeed also exchanged calls and texts on the morning of the third day of the Oval Test, the court heard.

The judge told Amir's barrister, Henry Blaxland QC: "There is no evidence of a 'yes' on his part, although you will accept I think that he was in regular and substantial contact with someone who was undoubtedly seeking to influence him to bowl brackets."

Mr Blaxland responded that Amir at a "relatively early stage" did not return the large number of calls made to him.

The judge asked whether Amir was claiming that more senior Pakistan cricketers - in particular his former captain, Butt - put him under pressure to become involved in fixing.

Mr Blaxland replied: "He takes responsibility for his own actions and he does not seek to shift responsibility to his co-defendants."

Aftab Jafferjee QC, prosecuting, said Amir at first denied delivering two deliberate no-balls at Lord's when he was interviewed by police on September 3 last year.

"His account was that he received no money for bowling either of the no-balls and that each of them occurred because of slippery conditions," he said.

Mr Jafferjee also applied for a compensation order to repay the £150,000 in cash that an undercover reporter from the News of the World paid to Majeed as part of an arrangement to rig cricket games, including the no-balls at Lord's.

The three cricketers were mobbed by photographers and camera crews as they arrived at court this morning for the two-day sentencing hearing.

Court 4 was packed with British and Pakistani journalists and cricket fans eager to find out the fate of the players.

Four of the 12 jurors who found Butt and Asif guilty yesterday returned to the courtroom today to see sentence passed.

The International Cricket Council imposed five-year suspensions on all three cricketers in February over the deliberate no-balls at Lord's. They are all appealing against the bans.

Majeed has already admitted his part in the match-fixing plot, it can be revealed today.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to make corrupt payments at a pre-trial hearing on September 16, and now faces sentencing along with the three cricketers.

The judge lifted reporting restrictions banning publication of Majeed's guilty pleas today.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn