Belfast Telegraph

Cricket: Pakistan trio start bans as claims of rife corruption denied

The three Pakistan cricketers facing match-fixing allegations were released without charge by police last night.

Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were all questioned separately by detectives at Kilburn police station in north-west London.

Speaking outside the station after they had left, their lawyer, Elizabeth Robertson, said they had attended voluntarily and at no time were they under arrest.

She said the men would continue to co-operate fully with police and the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has already charged them under their anti-corruption code and provisionally banned them from playing in any match.

The trio say they are innocent but have been charged with “various offences”

Despite the trio’s suspension on match-rigging charges, the International Cricket Council denied that corruption was rife in the game.

The reassuring words are one thing, the reaction from a sceptical watching world may be another.

Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, acted decisively on Thursday by sanctioning the provisional banning of the trio from all cricket for their alleged part in a rigging scandal during the fourth Test against England.

Captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer have been charged under Article four of the world governing body's anti-corruption code and could face a life ban.

Pakistan's High Commissioner in London continued to imply that the players were being victimised and that the ICC “was playing to the public gallery.” He also suggested that there was an anti-Pakistan policy at play.

The ICC's inquiry into the offences can only take place after the criminal investigation being conducted by Scotland Yard.

Detectives became involved last weekend when the News of the World reported that the two bowlers, with the collusion of their captain, bowled no-balls to order during England's innings in the match at Lord's.

The paper, which is promising further revelations tomorrow, paid £150,000 to a middleman, Mazhar Majeed, who claimed to control seven players in the team. Asif and Aamer then appear to have bowled the no-balls when Majeed said they would do so.

But yesterday Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the recently appointed head of the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, said he did not believe that malpractice was widespread in the game.

“I do not see this as the tip of an iceberg but I think it is something from which we must learn,” he said. “It's not a contagion.”

At a joint press conference at Lord's, Lorgat reiterated his statement of the previous night that there would be zero tolerance from the ICC towards corruption.

The trouble for those hearing this is that something similar has been said before.

Although there is no question that cricket is much more aware about the infiltration into the game of bookmakers and the amount of money that they and those who would seek to swindle them are prepared to offer players, the evidence of this week suggests it has not been stamped out altogether.

Some of those who have been singled out in the past are still involved in the game, and although England have clearly adopted a high moral tone this week they could easily be accused of double standards.

Their spin bowling coach is Mushtaq Ahmed, yet ten years ago when match fixing first swept across the game he was named.

The case of the Pakistan three is likely to take months rather than weeks to be resolved according to Sir Ronnie.

Initially they have 14 days to lodge an appeal against the provisional suspension.

Although the ICC refused to designate the specific charges that the players face they are all contained in article two of the anti-corruption code.

They include: fixing, or contriving in any way, or influencing improperly the result, progress or conduct of an international match; seeking, accepting, or agreeing to accept a bribe to affect the match; and failing, for reward, to perform to one's abilities. It is fair to presume that Butt, Asif and Aamer will be charged under those three sections.

It was confirmed that they are being charged only in relation to events in the fourth Test.

Belfast Telegraph

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