Fourth Pakistan cricketer comes under investigation for alleged match fixing

Unnamed player joins team captain and two bowlers being examined by cricket's ruling body as scandal spreads
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The Independent Online

A fourth Pakistan cricketer is under investigation by the sport's world governing body over alleged match-rigging, it has been reported. The unnamed player joins team captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir as the subjects of an International Cricket Council investigation.

The three have been suspended from the remainder of their team's England tour following an exposé by the News of the World in which undercover reporters filmed cricket agent Mazhar Majeed accepting £150,000 as a downpayment for precise information on when no-balls would be bowled in the fourth Test.

Between £15,000 and £10,000 in marked notes traceable back to the News of the World were found by Scotland Yard in a search of Butt's hotel room, and smaller sums in the rooms of Asif and Amir.

"Not all the money has been recovered. The cash seized is not a life-changing sum. It is more like pocket money for the players," a source close to the investigation told the newspaper. "Work is now going on to find out where the rest of the money has gone."

The three men have maintained that they are innocent and Taffazul Rizvi, the Pakistan Cricket Board's legal adviser, said: "Majeed is their marketing agent and the money recovered from players could be paid on sponsorship deals. It doesn't prove a crime."

Officers from the Metropolitan Police's economic and specialist crime squad are working to trace Swiss bank accounts which Mr Majeed claimed to have opened for the players in his pocket.

Butt, Asif and Amir face 23 charges laid by the ICC under its anti-corruption code, and they have been provisionally banned from playing in any match.

The three are also subject to a police investigation and have been questioned under caution by detectives at Kilburn police station, near Lord's cricket ground in north-west London. They were released without charge on Friday.

Mr Majeed, 35, a property tycoon who owns Croydon Athletic Football Club, was arrested and bailed without charge. Police are also investigating his claim that he bought the club to launder money from his multi-million-pound betting scam.

The ICC has refused to comment on suggestions that a fourth player is under investigation. The Met said it was not investigating a fourth person.

The News of the World began investigating allegations of corruption in the Pakistan team in January after it received a tip-off from a former member of Pakistan's cricket management that this summer's Test series would be rigged. Indian betting syndicates in effect controlled games, they were told.

Shahid Afridi, Butt's replacement as Pakistan captain for the Twenty20 series which starts today in Cardiff, apologised on behalf of the three accused players yesterday. "On behalf of these boys – I know they're not in this series – I want to say sorry to all cricket lovers and all the cricketing nations," he said. "I've told the boys 'don't read the newspaper tomorrow – just focus on cricket'."

Mr Majeed and his brother, Azhar, did represent several Pakistan players, he confirmed, adding: "He [Mazhar] has been travelling with some of the team guys, in Australia and the West Indies. I saw him on the tours but didn't know anything about [the alleged fixing]."

Bent team-mates were fixing "almost every match", batsman Yasir Hameed, who opened the fourth Test, said in an interview in today's News of the World. He claims to have been offered £150,000 to throw matches, but lost his place in the squad when he refused. Hameed, 32, denies having given the interview, but the News of the World says it plans to release its video footage.

The newspaper reported him as saying: "They've been caught. Only the ones that get caught are branded crooks. They were doing it [fixing] in almost every match.

"God knows what they were up to. Scotland Yard was after them for ages. It makes me angry because I'm playing my best and they are trying to lose.

"There are agents but they are bastard bookies, basically. I've been offered huge amounts of cash, up to £150,000. I wouldn't get involved. That's why I was out of the team for two years.

"In the Sydney Test Match they made £1.8m – they gave away the match. I don't know how the money was divided up. I think they get £20,000 or £25,000 for no-balls. In the future, imagine how much money they would have made. Now God has punished them."

But he defended Butt: "He's a nice guy, basically. I don't know why he's gone like this because of money."

Team players: Fallen stars of a national game

Mohammed Amir, 18

Fast-bowling prodigy Amir is the second youngest of seven siblings from Changa Bangyaal, Punjab. In this series, he became the youngest to take five wickets in England, and on the day the fixing row broke, was named Man of the Series.

Mohammed Asif, 28

A wily, accurate fast-bowler, Asif has been crucial to Pakistan in a number of Tests. But he also has a reputation for controversy, twice testing positive for steroids.

Salman Butt, 25

Butt, regarded as a spiky and confident batsman, made his breakthrough in 2004 with a century against India. Born into a wealthy family, he went to Lahore's exclusive Beaconhouse school and is married with a 19-month-old son.

The fourth man

Nothing is yet known about the fourth man who is alleged to be involved in the spot-fixing. The News of the World is not naming him "for legal reasons", and has given no clues to his identity.