Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Mohammad Amir is silenced due to ‘threats’

End of line: Salman Butt at court yesterday for sentencing after being found guilty of spot fixing

Mohammad Amir refused to give evidence during the spot-fixing trial that ended yesterday — with prison sentences imposed on Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif — because of “underworld threats” made against him and his family in Pakistan.

The 19-year-old bowler pleaded guilty ahead of the trial and was yesterday sentenced to six months in a young offenders' institute.

Butt received 30 months, Asif a year and Mazhar Majeed, the players' British agent, two years and eight months. They are expected to serve half their jail terms.

Butt is to appeal against his sentence, while Amir's legal team are considering whether to follow suit.

Despite being given the opportunity by the judge, Mr Justice Cooke, to take the stand during the hearing that followed the guilty verdicts for Butt and Asif, Amir maintained his silence on the scandal that has rocked cricket. As at the ICC hearing in Doha in February where he was banned for five years by the game's governing body, it was Amir's defence team who spoke on his behalf at Southwark Crown Court.

In documents presented to the judge as to why he would not give evidence, Amir said that there had been threats made to him and his family which meant there were “significant limits” to what he could say in public.

In passing sentencing yesterday, Mr Justice Cooke said: “The reality of those threats and the strength of the underworld influences who control unlawful betting abroad is shown by the supporting evidence from the Anti Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) of the ICC.”

Yesterday Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the former RUC Chief Constable who runs the ACSU, spoke of the “evil and dangerous people behind the corrupt people”.

Despite the first imprisonment of players for corruption in cricket, which the ICC hope will act as a significant deterrent, Amir's continued reticence demonstrates the threat to the game, and players who become entangled in such activities, posed by those who control the huge illegal gambling market.

Security experts estimate its worth to be $50bn a year and centred around India, Pakistan, Dubai and the Far East.

Flanagan defended cricket but accepted that there are further issues for the sport to address in the wake of a five-week trial that has seen other players from the Pakistan team linked with “suspicious” activities and revealed the corrupting presence of shadowy figures around the team and the sport.

Flanagan's unit are now likely to begin a new investigation into some of the other players named during the course of the trial.

Flanagan said: “(Corruption) is certainly not rampant in the world of cricket. It is engaged in by a tiny number of people.

“Sadly I wouldn't say the instances we have seen brought to justice are totally isolated either.

“The vast, vast majority of cricketers are wonderfully ethical.

“It is only a tiny proportion of people.”

The four men showed little reaction when they were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court yesterday, the damning final act of a conspiracy that begun with a sting by the News of the World.

Majeed accepted £150,000 in cash from the undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood to arrange with the players to deliver three no-balls during the Lord's Test against England last year.

“‘It's not cricket' was an adage,” said Mr Justice Cooke in passing sentence.

“It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it which make the offences so serious.”

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