Two Pakistan cricket players were found guilty of conspiring to take bribes and cheating in a match against England last year at Lord’s cricket ground in London.
Former captain Salman Butt, 27, conspired with fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 29, and another teammate to bowl poorly three times in the match to affect gambling outcomes, the jury decided today after a three-week trial in London. The third player, fast bowler Mohammad Amir, 19, pleaded guilty before the trial.
The crime was uncovered in a secret recording by a journalist at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid, who offered Butt’s agent, Mazhar Majeed, a 140,000-pound ($223,000) bribe. Majeed accepted the money so Butt would arrange for Asif and Amir to bowl “no balls” on Aug. 26 and 27 last year during the fourth Test, prosecutors alleged.
Amir bowled two no balls and Asif bowled one at exactly the moments specified in the recording, taped by the tabloid journalist who posed as a wealthy Indian businessman interested in fixing cricket matches.
“It’s fair to say we wouldn’t be here today without investigative journalism,” Matthew Horne, detective chief superintendent for the Metropolitan Police, said after the verdict.
Butt’s lawyer, Ali Bajwa, and Asif’s lawyer, Robert Brown, declined to comment following the verdicts.
The prosecution’s evidence included videotaped conversations between the journalist and Majeed, transcripts of text messages between the players and Majeed recovered by Canada’s Mounted Police and guidance provided by statisticians.
Police found 2,500 pounds in cash that matched the serial numbers of the money paid to Majeed by the reporter when they searched Butt’s hotel room on Aug. 28. The former team captain said he’d been given the money as part payment of a 5,000 pound fee for appearing at the opening of a South London ice cream parlor for Majeed.
The three players “deliberately and knowingly perverted the course of a cricket match for financial gain,” said Sally Walsh, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service. “Match-fixing is not just unsportsmanlike but is a serious criminal act.”
The players face as much as seven years in prison under U.K. sentencing guidelines. Justice Jeremy Cooke will hear legal arguments starting tomorrow regarding sentencing.
After his arrest, Butt said that three no-balls were bowled at the same time his agent told the journalist that they would be, was a series of “freakish occurrences,” Aftab Jafferjee, a lawyer for the prosecution, told the jury during the trial. Asif said the fact that he bowled no balls was chance and unrelated to the bribe, according to prosecutors.
Butt testified that playing for Pakistan was “the greatest honor of my life.” He said he earned a total of around 800,000 pounds in sponsorship and match fees between 2007 and 2010.
In February, Butt, Asif and Amir were suspended from the game for violating the sport’s anti-corruption code by the International Cricket Council said.