Three held over cricket betting scam

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The Independent Online

Three people have been arrested by Customs officials in connection with betting allegations against Pakistani cricket players.

Two men and a woman, all from London, were questioned yesterday as part of an investigation into money laundering before being released on bail, HM Revenue and Customs said.

The development came as it was announced that three Pakistan cricketers will meet officials from their country in London tomorrow.

HM Revenue and Customs said in a statement: "Three individuals were arrested on Sunday as part of an ongoing investigation into money laundering.

"This includes two 35-year-olds - a male and a female - from the Croydon area, and a 49-year-old male from the Wembley area.

"These individuals were arrested, questioned and have been bailed pending further investigation."

A spokeswoman refused to confirm whether the arrests were linked to the alleged betting scam reported by the News of the World.

The newspaper said journalists posing as Far Eastern businessmen paid a middleman £150,000 to arrange for Pakistan players to deliberately bowl no-balls to order in last week's fourth Test against England at Lord's.

Following the report, Mazhar Majeed, 35, a cricket agent who also owns Croydon Athletic Football Club, was arrested by Scotland Yard detectives and then released on police bail.

Four Pakistan players - Test captain Salman Butt, bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal - were questioned by police over the allegations at their London hotel.

It is expected that the four players will be asked to withdraw from the forthcoming Twenty20 internationals and one-day internationals against England, which begin on Sunday in Cardiff.

Butt, Aamer and Asif will return to London tomorrow for talks with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt and the country's high commissioner, team manager Yawar Saeed said today.

After the meeting the three players are expected to rejoin their team-mates, who are due to play a tour match against Somerset on Thursday.

The PCB, the High Commission for Pakistan in London and the sports ministry in Islamabad were holding a conference call today to discuss the best way forward.

Haroon Lorgat, of ruling body the International Cricket Council (ICC), said he hoped there would be "some sort of a conclusion" to the investigation by the weekend.

The ICC's anti-corruption and security unit is also investigating the claims and Lorgat said "prompt and decisive action" would be taken against anyone who sought to harm the game's integrity.

He said: "Make no mistake, once the process is complete, if any players are found to be guilty, the ICC will ensure that the appropriate punishment is handed out.

"We will not tolerate corruption in this great game."

Cricketers found guilty of cheating could be thrown out of the sport but Mr Lorgat said "a couple of individuals that might have got caught up in corrupt practices" should not bring the entire game to a standstill.

Journalists were refused access to Somerset's County Ground in Taunton today ahead of Pakistan's training session at the request of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the PCB.

Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the country's highest law enforcement agency, has sent three investigators to the UK.

Reports have suggested other matches may have been fixed and up to 80 international Tests could form part of the police investigation.

The claims are the latest in a string of match-fixing allegations to dog the Pakistan team since the 1990s.

Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who officially launched the FIA investigation, said: "The latest fixing allegations have bowed our heads in shame."

Australia all-rounder Shane Watson and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin confirmed today they had both been approached by an Indian bookmaker in the past 16 months.

Both men said they reported the incidents to team management and insisted they were never specifically asked to alter the result of a match.