Pakistani cricketers in court over 'cheating'

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The Independent Online

Three Pakistani cricketers and a sports agent at the centre of match-fixing allegations were bailed today.

Former captain Salman Butt, 26, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif, 28, and Mohammad Amir, 18, attended City of Westminster Magistrates' Court accused of cheating and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments.

The cricketers were given unconditional bail and Mazhar Majeed, 35, of Oaks Road, Croydon, south London, was told to surrender his passport and not apply for international travel documents.

All four will appear at Southwark Crown Court on May 20.

Majeed is accused of accepting £150,000 to arrange for the players to bowl "no balls" during three dates in Pakistan's Test series at Lord's Cricket Ground in London last August.

All four were summoned to court where they made their first appearance sitting together in the dock with a translator for the teenager.

District Judge Howard Riddle heard the evidence came from an investigation by the News of the World's undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood.

Sally Walsh, prosecuting, objected to unconditional bail being granted but her application was dismissed regarding the cricket stars.

Their lawyers told the court their reputations were very important to them and they would attend all future hearings.

Sureties of up to £50,000 were offered to secure the players' bail, but Mr Riddle said it was unnecessary.

He warned all four to ensure they attend Southwark Crown Court saying: "There is no doubt the allegations are very serious and I know you recognise that."

Noting all four were of good character Mr Riddle said the men's reputations were of the "utmost importance" to them.

Britain has no extradition treaty with Pakistan.

Legal aid was not applied for.

The cricketers were previously funded by the Pakistan Cricket Board but their lawyer confirmed outside court that has ended.

Accepting corrupt payments is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Cheating is an offence under Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005. It carries a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.