Condon prowls new beat

Stephen Fay watches the ICC's detectives start their world trawl
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The Independent Online

Sir Paul Condon, who was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, recruited the detectives for the International Cricket Council's Anti-Corruption Unit from his old force. There are three of them on a staff of five, and they are being kept under wraps, although a glimpse of one of them revealed a neat grey moustache rather than flat feet.

Sir Paul Condon, who was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, recruited the detectives for the International Cricket Council's Anti-Corruption Unit from his old force. There are three of them on a staff of five, and they are being kept under wraps, although a glimpse of one of them revealed a neat grey moustache rather than flat feet.

Condon explains that these men have not been brought in off the beat. They have investigated cases of international terrorism and piracy; one dealt with 10 cases of international kidnapping. Another is a veteran of undercover work in Sierra Leone.

We knew about corruption in cricket, but is it really that bad? After last week, the answer is a qualified yes. At least no one gets killed.

Condon's unit started work in September, and were exposed to public scrutiny last week on the day the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation released their report. Condon reports that he and the deputy director of the CBI have already met, and that his detectives will arrive in India this week to take up the investigation on behalf of world cricket.

Condon understands venality. He took on corruption in the Met and 70 policemen were charged during his seven-year term. He is upright, smoothly silver-haired, in his early fifties, energetic and well paid - £135,000 a year for a part-time role, though he is, he says, working flat out at present.

But working for the ICC means having 12 employers, and 12 separate jurisdictions. Condon insisted on independ-ence, and he reports directly to Lord Griffiths, the former High Court judge who chairs the ICC's Code of Conduct Commission, but his independence also removes him from the vital business of prosecution.

"We shouldn't be judge and jury," says Condon, but there is no chance of that. He will need all his energy and his optimism to achieve his target, which is to clean up cricket before the World Cup in 2003.

The unit deliberately chose not to have an office at Lord's, where the ICC are based. Instead they occupy a suite of offices just around the corner from Scotland Yard. There, the only evidence of their preoccupation is a copy of this year's Wisden on one of the desks. Presumably, other documents are in the safe, which stands prominently by the wall. Each desk has a screen on which detectives can deploy a software system that sorts and relates the facts they feed into it.

Condon's appointment was initially questioned by Pakistan's ICC representative. (He was Commissioner when the Met was accused of institutional racism.) But he declares that he satisfied his critics when the ICC met in Nairobi last month. Asked whether the all-English composition of his unit might erode credibility, Condon freely admitted that it doesn't help. But a multi-national force would have made a slower start and led to a dramatic increase in costs. (The initial budget is flexible: between £750,000 and £1m in year one.) The unit's first job is to inform the data base. Every Test player is required to sign a declaration. It contains four questions, each relating to an aspect of corruption in cricket. It seems naïve, on the face of it, to expect cricketers to incriminate themselves. "Yes, it is, to some extent," Condon admits. "But it is make-up-their-mind time for them. If they are caught lying, they can expect even more severe consequences." He hopes the questionnaire will reveal untapped sources of information: "People with knowledge who had nowhere to go."

The unit will also act as a clearing house for information. Early next month, Greg Melick, Australia's chief investigator, will be in London to meet people from the Indian CBI, the South African King Commission and other investigators, including the Met, whose inquiries into Chris Lewis' claims will be completed before the end of the year.

"We now have a critical mass big enough to make a difference," says Condon. But it will take a lot longer to discover whether there is real equality of will to expose and punish cricketers who succumb to the blandishments of the bookies.

Condon's own motives are straightforward. He says that, as you get older, you are harder to shock, but he confesses that he has been shocked and disappointed that corruption should have infiltrated the game that gave the phrase "It's not cricket" to the language. Condon likes cricket, and he wants cricketers to be free of suspicion: "They are sick and tired of being second-guessed," he says. As for the spectators, they want to be sure that they are watching the real thing.

Different jurisdictions and divided loyalties will test Condon's patience and his ingenuity, but only a fool would not wish him luck.

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