Pakistan captain Butt had £40,000 including marked notes at hotel
Large sums also found in the rooms of Asif and Amir during police search after tip-off from journalist
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 07 October 2011
Detectives uncovered around £40,000 in cash in eight different denominations as well as four mobile telephones when they searched the London hotel room of Salman Butt, then captain of Pakistan, on the evening of the third day of the fourth Test against England last year.
Among the cash was 50 marked £50 notes given by a News of the World journalist to Mazher Majeed, Butt's agent, on the eve of the Lord's Test in return for allegedly arranging with Butt and his team-mates Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir to spot-fix – bowl deliberate no-balls at agreed moments – during the match.
As part of the prosecution's case, the jury at Butt and Asif's trial were yesterday shown dramatic footage filmed by a hidden camera of the moment Majeed took delivery of £140,000 in £50 notes, all of which had had their serial numbers recorded, in another hotel room in a different part of London. Butt and Asif are charged with conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat, which carry maximum sentences of seven and two years' imprisonment respectively. Both deny the charges.
Police searched the hotel rooms of the three players, the captain and his opening bowlers, after receiving information from the News of the World journalist Mazhar Mahmood – the paper published the story the following morning, 29 August.
In Butt's room, room 714 of the Marriott Hotel near Regent's Park, they discovered a large amount of cash inside an attaché case locked inside a suitcase that Butt said belonged to his wife. The police found £14,003 – among which were the marked notes – $12,617 and a further £15,999 in various denominations, including Canadian and Australian dollars, South African rand and UAE dhirams.
In Asif's room there was £8,000 in cash in eight envelopes split between two rucksacks and in Amir's room more than £9,000 in cash in a safe, including 30 of the News of the World £50 notes. All three players claimed the cash can in part be explained by the £114 daily allowance they receive while on tour to England. Butt told police much of the rest of the money was for his sisters to buy clothes for their forthcoming weddings and also part of a cash payment he had received from Majeed in return for agreeing to open an ice-cream parlour in Tooting after the Test. Asif said his cash was also for wedding shopping.
Two days before the police arrived at the Marriot, Majeed and Mahmood had met in the Copthorne Tara hotel in Kensington. Ahead of the meeting, which began at 10.50pm, Majeed phoned Amir, Butt and Asif. Operation Seawell, as the police investigation is named, has recovered a number of key texts and also relies on extensive phone records.
At the meeting it is claimed Majeed laid out the deal. Amir would bowl a no-ball with his first ball of the third over, Asif the last ball of the 10th over and Amir would deliver one more later, the last ball of the first over that he switched to round the wicket – his usual line of attack to a right-hander. England's openers, Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, are both left-handed, Jonathan Trott at No 3 is right-handed.
Butt and Asif watched from the dock as the jury were shown Majeed and Mahmood sitting on a sofa and an armchair at a low table. Mahmood handed out bundles of £50 notes and Majeed stacked them in front of him. "You're going to make a lot of money, believe me," said Majeed. The film also showed Majeed calling Amir, who was woken by the call. After he left the hotel, now approaching 11.30pm the night before the Test, Majeed called the other two, Butt and Asif, and then called Amir again and left a message.
Footage of the following day, the first of the fourth Test, was also shown to the court. First Amir does as promised in the third over and Billy Bowden calls no-ball, then Tony Hill, the other umpire and another New Zealander, called Asif on the last scheduled ball of the 10th. Amir's foot was a distance over the popping crease, Asif's a fraction.
Poor weather cut short the day and within minutes of the close, Butt, Asif and Amir were in contact with Majeed. By 10pm, the prosecution claim, a new deal was done for the following day. Majeed sent a text meant for Amir – "Yaar [mate], after you finish your current over, then three overs. Text back." In error he sent it to Mahmood.
The next day Amir underlined his enormous potential as a fast bowler by running through England's top order. Then came the arranged over and before its start Butt approached Amir and they spoke briefly. Amir overstepped again by a large margin.
Aftab Jafferjee, QC, outlining the Crown's case, said: "It is as if the sport is simply there as a vehicle with which money is to be made by 'fixing' certain aspects of the game; and it reveals the determination by the likes of Salman Butt to see it through."
Yesterday's proceedings also saw the Crown claim that the practice of spot-fixing attempted by Majeed goes beyond this one game. Majeed had tried to deliver a maiden over for Mahmood in the previous Test at The Oval through Butt, who was to play out the first full over he faced and signal his intent to do so by patting the pitch with his bat after the second ball – to demonstrate to the journalist that Butt was "onside". But a wicket fell early and Butt had to face the new ball; against a hard ball and a close field, the Pakistan captain could not control events as requested.
The police have obtained deleted text messages between Butt and Majeed from May when Pakistan were playing in the World Twenty20 in West Indies that suggest something was being arranged there. They also have one from March, during the Indian Premier League, between Majeed and his brother, Azhar, who had previously been Asif's agent. Azhar Majeed texted: "Let's do it, let's get hold of fucking cricket and squeeze everything we can from it."
In a meeting at Majeed's house in Croydon before the Oval Test, on 21 August, the agent suggested to Mahmood that he was "grooming" players to carry out his wishes. As well as Butt, Asif and Amir, he mentioned Kamran and Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz and, to a lesser extent, Imran Farhat, as "his boys." "These boys are going to be around for years and I've got the best boys," said Majeed.
Of Amir, then 18 and already the youngest bowler to take 50 Test wickets, Mr Jafferjee suggested that it was a "tragedy that a young, amazing talent got seduced into corruption".
The case continues.
How much Salman Butt earns...
Salary from his club – National Bank of Pakistan: £420
From Pakistan Cricket Board: £2,000 per month, £2,600 per Test, £2,000 per T20
From sponsor: £800 for every international appearance, £500 per century, £250 per half-century
Two other contracts w/ sponsors worth total: £46,000
Total earned p.a (approx): £149,920
Compared to, for example... Andrew Strauss
Band A Central Contract: £400,000
Bonus: Appearances and wins, all pooled together by PCA then divvied out: £150,000
Sponsorships (bat, Jaguar, watches, etc): £500,000
Total earned p.a (approx): £1.05m
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