The News of the World was in court again yesterday – but this time in the witness stand rather than the dock.
Mazher Mahmood, the former star undercover reporter at Rupert Murdoch's now defunct Sunday title, was giving evidence in the trial of two Pakistani cricketers accused of match fixing. The allegations first came to light in a front page story he wrote for the paper in August last year.
Mahmood – often called the "Fake Sheikh" for his notorious Middle Eastern disguises – appeared behind a blue screen, barred from all but the judge and jury, in an attempt to protect his identity. The judge cleared the court before the reporter entered and left, to ensure nobody in the public gallery at Southwark Crown Court in central London could see him as he gave evidence.
Prosecutors allege cricket agent Mazher Majeed, 36, from Croydon, south London, conspired with Pakistan's former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, to fix parts of the Lord's Test between England and Pakistan in August 2010. Butt and Asif deny conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.
The jury was played taped recordings made by Mahmood, who posed as an Indian businessman, detailing a series of meetings he had with Mr Majeed, who claimed to represent Butt and Asif as well as other Pakistani players. The court heard he listed the "prices" of setting outcomes in cricket matches involving his clients. Mr Majeed was heard claiming the players had approached him with the idea.
In one recording, made at a meeting between the pair on 18 August last year, Mr Majeed said match fixing had been happening "for centuries". He added: "You can make absolute millions." The agent said his players did not often fix the outcomes of matches, but added: "We're doing two results coming up soon, within a month."
He added that, were the pair to come to an agreement, information on a "bracket" – a period of the game when players played in a pre-arranged way – would cost £50,000 to £80,000. The result of a Twenty20 game would cost £400,000, a one-day international £450,000 and a Test Match £1m. The trial continues.