Cricket 'cheats' caught out with criminal charges

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The Independent Online

Three Pakistan cricketers and their UK-based agent are to be charged with corruption and cheating bookmakers. The trio are accused of orchestrating the deliberate bowling of no-balls during a Test match against England in London last summer in exchange for cash from the agent.

The cricketers, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, and the agent Mazhar Majeed, from Croydon, face charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat.

The players were questioned by Scotland Yard detectives in September after the allegations emerged in a Sunday newspaper and agreed to return voluntarily to England if charged. They have been summoned, along with Majeed, to a hearing in London on 17 March.

The charges involve incidents in the fourth Test at Lord's in August. Majeed is accused of accepting £150,000 from a third party to arrange "spot-fixing" – deliberate no-balling at a pre-arranged moment. Butt was the Pakistan captain during the match; Asif and Amir were two of his bowlers. The players have been suspended from cricket by the sport's governing body, the ICC, since September.

In January the players faced a three-man ICC tribunal in Doha under the chairmanship of the South African Michael Beloff QC. After a six-day hearing the decision was deferred until today. The players face the prospect of life bans from the sport if found guilty by the ICC.

Simon Clements, Head of the CPS Special Crime Division, said: "The Crown Prosecution Service has been working closely with the Metropolitan Police Service since the allegations of match-fixing became public on 29 August 2010. We received a full file of evidence on 7 December 2010 and we are satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute."

Obtaining and accepting corrupt payments carries a maximum sentence of seven years and an unlimited fine under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. Cheating, an offence under the Gambling Act 2005, carries a maximum sentence of two years.

A statement released yesterday on behalf of Asif by his solicitors read: "Mohammad Asif has co-operated fully with the Metropolitan Police. Today's decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to formally charge him is a sad and disappointing outcome to that investigation and he will now take some time to consider his response."

Amir, 18, is one of cricket's most promising young stars, a fast bowler capable of devastating an opposition's batting line up. Yesterday he left Pakistan to fly to Doha for the ICC decision. He told a local television station that the CPS's announcement had come as a "surprise". All three players have denied wrongdoing.

* The three have asked for the sports governing body to adjourn its decision, it was reported today.

They are are arguing, through their solicitors, that any decision from the tribunal would prejudice their criminal case, the BBC reported.



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