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 4 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 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 was 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 who the players had met during their time playing 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 to England last summer trying to make the players do as much as possible.
According to Majeed, it was in the summer of 2009 during a dinner in 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.”