The British agent convicted of corruption in partnership with three Pakistan cricketers claimed yesterday that it was Salman Butt, the team's former captain, and another unnamed player who first approached him to propose spot-fixing, that the Pakistan team was surrounded by those looking to corrupt players and that there may have been more than one match-fixing ring involved around the team.
During the first of a two-day sentencing hearing for Butt, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Mazhar Majeed, their agent whose guilty plea can be reported for the first time, Majeed's defence asserted that their client was the "arranger not the corrupter". It was also suggested that the Lord's conspiracy, revealed in a News of the World sting, for which the four men have been convicted and will be sentenced today, was not the only malpractice spoken of. All four face the prospect of imprisonment, with Butt, Asif and Majeed's defence accepting that custodial sentences are likely.
On an extraordinary afternoon in Court Four of Southwark Crown Court, Majeed's defence also claimed that it was Asif among the players whom he gave the bulk of the monies paid by the undercover News of the World journalist to ensure Asif "remained loyal to these people, the players within the dressing room, rather than others whom he might be tempted by – that was what [Majeed] was told." The suggestion by Majeed's defence is there might have been another match-fixing ring in operation and that Asif needed to be paid more to ensure he stayed with the one arranged by Majeed. Asif's lawyers deny the claim.
Asif, said Mark Milliken-Smith, Majeed's QC, received £65,000 in cash – Asif's defence said that was the first time they had heard such a figure – Amir £2,500 and Butt £10,000. The remaining £72,500 was kept by Majeed, although he said it was intended that more would later go to the players. The three players deny all Majeed's claims. While marked £50 notes from the News of the World payment were found in Butt's and Amir's hotel rooms in Regent's Park, none was discovered when Asif's was searched.
Mr Milliken-Smith said that it was Butt and the other player, who has not been charged, who proposed that they set up "non-match affecting" fixing during the tour of England. They gave Majeed the number of a man called Sanjay, an Indian bookmaker whom the players had met during their time in the Indian Premier League in 2008.
Majeed was supposed to be the middleman. He would deal with Sanjay – the police have a number of texts between the men that were not presented during the trial – and then pass on instructions to the players. Sanjay, said Mr Milliken-Smith, called Majeed regularly during the tour of England last year trying to make the players do as much as possible.
According to Majeed, it was in the summer of 2009 during a dinner at the World Twenty20 Cup in England that Butt first broached the subject of match- or spot-fixing. He told Majeed that he knew other players in the team were doing it and could tell when they were doing it. Majeed said that Butt was angry about the amounts of money those players were earning from what they were doing.
They next discussed the issue in January 2010 when Butt, another player and Majeed had lunch towards the end of Pakistan's one-day series in Australia. They talked in "broad terms" about the issue. The other player asked Butt whether Majeed was trustworthy. Butt said yes. They then talked, claimed Majeed's defence, about "doing something" – but not something that would affect the result of games. A month later Majeed met with a couple of players in Pakistan where the matter was further discussed and then in April/May Majeed, Butt and the other player spoke again during the World Twenty20 Cup in the Caribbean. The players told Majeed that there were two other players "ready" and they "would do something that summer". It was at that meeting that Sanjay, the Indian bookmaker, was first mentioned. He was described to Majeed as a "good contact".
Majeed first met Sanjay at a Park Lane hotel in London early in the summer of 2010. Sanjay told Majeed how betting in India worked and also boasted that he controlled other players "not just from the subcontinent".
The next time Majeed met Butt, whom he saw as a "good friend", and the other player was in Sri Lanka at the Asia Cup. They told Majeed they were now in "two minds" about arranging something during the tour of England as Butt was in line for the captaincy. During the trial the jury heard evidence that, during the Asia Cup, Butt and Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, broke team rules by taking a taxi from the team hotel to meet Majeed at another hotel an hour's drive away.
Like Majeed, yesterday was also Amir's first appearance in court since the two pleaded guilty to both charges of accepting corrupt payments and cheating at gambling on 16 September. Henry Blaxland, his QC, read out an emotional letter to the court from Amir in which he apologised to "Pakistan and everyone in cricket". He wrote that "I do know how much damage this has done to the game I love more than anything else" and went on to describe how proud he had been when first picked to play for Pakistan: "I was given my shirt the night before. I stood for hours wearing it in front of the mirror. I would have worn it all night but didn't want to ruin it." He finished by writing: "I did the wrong thing. I was trapped, because of my stupidity. I panicked."
Amir claims he was pressured into bowling the two no-balls at Lord's but not by any of the others in the dock, Butt, Asif and Majeed, and he accepts full responsibility for his actions. Before listening to Amir's mitigation, the judge, Mr Justice Cooke said: "I have heard evidence and formed views about the relationships of various parties and inevitably I have heard evidence about the influence of the captain on his team. What might impact on other defendants is his suggestion that there was pressure and influence that might impact on his future career. If that does not come from the other defendants then I don't know where it does come from."
White leaves Yorkshire to become umpire
The former England all-rounder Craig White has set his sights on becoming an international umpire following his decision to leave Yorkshire after more than 20 years. The 41-year-old said: “I want to aim as high as I can and work my way up on the international panel. It will be hard work and there’s no guarantee I’ll make it, but I’m determined to give it a crack.”