The jury in the trial of former Pakistan captain Salman Butt was told yesterday that teenage fast bowler Mohammad Amir was not the "naive and wholly innocent" character the prosecution were suggesting.
Butt is accused of conspiring with Amir and Mohammad Asif to deliver pre-arranged no-balls during the fourth Test against England at Lord's last summer in return for cash payments from Mazhar Majeed, Butt's agent. As part of their case the prosecution allege that Butt used his authority as captain to influence Amir, then aged 18, to deliver two deliberate no-balls. Ali Bajwa QC, in summing up Butt's defence at Southwark Crown Court yesterday, said: "This isn't some naive and wholly innocent 19-year-old." Butt and Asif are both charged with accepting corrupt payments and cheating at gambling.
Mr Bajwa detailed how Amir sent a text from Majeed's phone to a number in Pakistan after his hotel room had been searched by police following allegations published in the News of the World about spot-fixing. Mr Bajwa said: "Amir sent a text saying: 'Amir here. Don't call my phone. ICC police have taken my phone. Are you able to delete those calls you made to me? If you can, do it OK. Don't reply'."
Mr Bajwa also drew attention to the fact that Amir called Majeed to a meeting in his room before the agent went to see Mazher Mahmood, the News of the World journalist, in another London hotel where he received £140,000 in cash after promising the under-cover journalist Amir and Asif would bowl three no-balls during the following day's play, the first of the Lord's Test. Amir had also sent suspicious texts to a number in Pakistan nine days before the Test.
Mr Bajwa said: "We say, with regret about a young man starting to show his talent on the world stage, that he didn't need Majeed and Butt." He added: "To say Salman Butt had some influence over Amir is far from the truth."
Mr Bajwa closed his defence by telling the jury that Butt, who like Asif denies the charges, would never "risk throwing away a lifetime's work and honour of leading his team on the world stage".
Alexander Milne, QC for Asif, acknowledged that the defence was working on the "premise that Majeed is a guilty man" and the "premise that Amir is a guilty man".
Mr Milne questioned the prosecution's reliance on Majeed, describing the 36 year-old from Croydon as "greedy", "selfish" and "self-interested". The prosecution, he said, relies on the "words and boasts of a proved fraudster".
In relation to his client's defence he advised the jury to take the example of Watergate and "follow the money" and that there was no money trail to Asif.
The case continues.