Alec Stewart cleared of corruption charges

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The Independent Online

England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart was cleared today of allegations he took money from a bookmaker in return for pitch and weather information during a tour to India in 1993.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) made the decision with the backing of Paul Condon, the chief corruption investigator for the International Cricket Council (ICC).

"Lord Condon's anti–corruption unit has undertaken a very thorough investigation into the allegations made against Alec Stewart and has concluded that there exists no substantive evidence justifying proceedings against Alec in relation to this matter," Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the ECB said.

"The matter is therefore closed."

The full statement read from Mr Elias QC read: "On Friday July 6, I received a confidential report from Lord Condon, head of the ICC's anti–corruption unit (ACU), relating to an investigation into an allegation made against Alec Stewart, that in 1993 he had received money from an Indian bookmaker for providing material information about a match or series of matches then taking place.

"The allegation, originally made to the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which received considerable publicity after it was published on the internet in November 2000, was immediately denied through the media by Alec Stewart and categorically rejected by him in two telephone interviews (when the allegations surfaced he was abroad) conducted by the ECB's (the board) chairman and chief executive.

" The ACU, at the request of the ECB, then began a painstaking inquiry into the matter. Their essential aim was to ascertain whether evidence existed to substantiate or support the allegation against Mr Stewart and, if it did, to bring it forward or make it available for the board to use in taking any appropriate action against him, through its disciplinary procedures.

" The result of the ACU inquiry may be summarised as follows:

1) The original maker of the allegation (MK Gupta) declines to make a statement to, or assist the ACU in any way, or to appear at any disciplinary hearing (whether in person or by video link) to make or substantiate his claim.

2) No independent evidence confirming, supporting or corroborating the allegation has been found by the ACU which could be brought forward to any disciplinary hearing.

3) In a recent interview with the ACU, Mr Stewart repeated his categorical denials of any receipt of money as alleged.

4) Mr Stewart has made available to the ACU his financial records for the period in question.

5) The board's discipline committee can give little credence to allegations which the maker is unwilling or unable to substantiate – natural justice rightly demands that we act upon the basis of admissible evidence which can be tested by an assessment of the witness, particularly under cross examination. In these circumstances, the assertion of the Indian bookmaker, untested and unable to be tested, being the only source of allegation against him, it follows that there exists no substantive evidence justifying proceedings against Alec Stewart in relation to this matter.

6) I desire to add two further comments: I express satisfaction that the matter has been exhaustively examined and that the "international dimension" to the enquiries, which would not have been within the jurisdiction of the board to investigate, has been pursued with all vigour; it is appropriate to use this opportunity to reiterate the discipline committee's absolute determination to root out any element of corruption within the game in the United Kingdom, and to bring forward any admissible evidence which is brought to its attention for full and proper examination. Anyone found to have been involved in corrupt practices will inevitably face the most severe penalties."

Stewart was one of several international cricketers named by Indian bookmaker Mukesh Gupta as being involved in cricket corruption. Others included Australian batsman Mark Waugh, West Indies' batsman Brian Lara, former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and batsman Aravinda de Silva and former New Zealand star Martin Crowe.

Gupta ignored a July 1 deadline by the ICC corruption investigation to formalize his allegations.

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