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Cricketer Mervyn Westfield jailed for spot-fixing


Mervyn Westfield, the first county cricketer in England to be prosecuted for spot-fixing, was sentenced to four months in prison at the Old Bailey today.

Former Essex player Westfield, 23, was jailed for one count of accepting or obtaining a corrupt payment to bowl in a way that would allow the scoring of runs.

He will serve half the term in prison and a confiscation order was made for £6,000.

He was paid £6,000 to bowl so that a specific number of runs would be chalked up in the first over of a match between Durham and Essex in September 2009.

It was claimed that Westfield was "targeted" by former Essex team mate and Pakistan international Danish Kaneria, who set up the deal.

Passing sentence, Judge Anthony Morris told Westfield: "I am satisfied that you would have known from the outset that what was being offered was a corrupt payment and that you could and should have refused it.

"I am also satisfied that, if you had any concerns about the approaches being made to you, you had an opportunity to mention them to the team captain or management, or if you were nervous of doing so, at least to your friends within the team. You chose not to do so."

He said the person who made the corrupt payment had used the information to influence either a foreign legal betting market, or an illegal one here or overseas.

The judge went on: "The criminality here is that, for financial gain, you betrayed the trust placed in you to play honestly and to the best of your ability.

"You were trusted to do so by other members of your team, your employers, the supporters of Essex County Cricket Club and the very many followers of the game throughout the world.

"If, because of corrupt payments, it cannot be guaranteed that every player will play to the best of his ability, the reality is that the enjoyment of many millions of people around the world who watch cricket, whether on television or at cricket grounds, will be destroyed."

The payment came to light when another Essex player, Tony Palladino, went to Westfield's Chelmsford flat in September 2009, where the bowler showed him "the most money he had ever seen".

Westfield emptied a plastic bag of rolled-up £50 notes on to his bed, and said Kaneria had told him a "friend" would pay him to concede a certain number of runs.

Kaneria was allegedly himself due to receive £4,000 as part of the Durham match deal.

Fast bowler Westfield pleaded guilty last month to one count of accepting or obtaining a corrupt payment to bowl in a way that would allow the scoring of runs.

He has received an interim suspension order from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Kaneria, who first joined Essex in 2005, was arrested in connection with the case but later released without charge.

The court heard that he was warned in 2008 by the ICC that he was keeping "highly inappropriate company" over his links with Indian bookmaker Arun Bhatia.

Mark Milliken-Smith QC, for Westfield, told the court: "It is clear, we submit, that Kaneria and his associates targeted Westfield.

"Westfield was on the verge of the squad, more susceptible for that reason. Less likely perhaps to be able to say no to the club's international star, his future with the club uncertain."

The match was the second televised game that Westfield had played in.

The court was told that other Essex players heard Kaneria mentioning spot-fixing but dismissed what he was saying as "banter".

Varun Chopra said that, in a phone call in August 2009, Kaneria told him: "There's ways of making money, you don't have to lose a game". He ignored the alleged approach.

Former Essex captain Mark Pettini and team-mates James Foster and David Masters also heard Kaneria discussing spot-fixing but thought it was a joke, the court was told.

Mr Milliken-Smith told the court that, despite these rumours at Essex County Cricket Club, a "blind eye" was turned, and opportunities to report the allegations were initially missed.