Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pakistani Players wanted Afridi replaced by Slaman Butt, court heard

LONDON: Pakistani Cricketers were ready to throw one-day internationals and Twenty20s in a bid to undermine then-captain Shahid Afridi and make “a hell of a lot of money”, a London court heard on Tuesday.

Mazhar Majeed, an agent for several Pakistan players, told an undercover reporter last year that the players wanted Afridi replaced by then-Test captain Salman Butt and were prepared to fix matches to do it, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The court also heard how a shadowy Indian contact offered the agent $1 million (740,000 euros) to ensure Pakistan lost a Test match against England.

The jury in the trial of Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif saw video of meetings between Majeed and the News of the World’s investigation’s editor Mazher Mahmood.

Mahmood, a star reporter for Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct tabloid, was posing as an Indian frontman for a Far East gambling syndicate.

Prosecutors allege Butt and Asif agreed for no-balls to be bowled as part of a spot-fixing betting scam.

The two players have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling.

The jury saw covertly-filmed footage of a meeting between the agent and the reporter at a London hotel, at which Majeed told Mahmood he had appeared on the scene at the right time ahead of one-day internationals and T20s between Pakistan and England.

The footage showed Mahmood handing over 140,000 pounds and Majeed counting it out.

“A lot of the boys, they want to f*** up Afridi because he’s trying to f*** up things for them, and he’s the captain of the Twenty20 and one-day,” Majeed claimed.

“They all want Butt to be captain… They want to lose anyway.” The agent went on: “The timing you’ve come into is perfect because the one-days and the Twenty20s are about to start.

“We’re going to be making a hell of a lot of money in the Twenty20s and the one-days.

“Say for example Twenty20. I will tell you the bowlers, how many minimum runs they are going to concede, which is much more than usual. They are going to concede those runs.

“With the batsmen I’m going to tell you how many, say for the example the two opening batsmen Salman and Kamran (Akmal) for example, you’ve only got 20 overs, they’re going to waste two overs, three overs… The Twenty20s are the easiest.”The jury also saw footage of an earlier meeting in Majeed’s London home, where the reporter recorded the agent on the telephone with an unidentified man in India, discussing deliberately throwing the England v Pakistan Test match at The Oval, which was under way at the time.

Majeed called his Indian contact and told him: “What offer can you give me for today’s game? Tell me, just give me a figure now, we haven’t got long.

“There’s a possibility, I’m just telling you that now, they’re talking at least 1.2 (million) — at least. In dollars.” The prosecution alleged that Majeed and the mystery contact were floating the possibility of Pakistan deliberately losing the game.

Referring to the number of Pakistan players under his wing, Majeed said:

“Boss, you know how many I’ve got, you know that they do it. So of course that’s not a problem. But you just give me the figure and I’m going to get backto you. We haven’t got much time. One million, yeah?” The Indian contact replied: “I give you one (million dollars). One I give you, but has to be a definite game score.” In the event, Pakistan beat England by four wickets later that day.

The court heard a secretly-recorded phone call later that day, in which the agent told the undercover reporter that his players were offering to spot-fix elements of matches for 150,000 pounds.

The agent said they could not understand why he was reluctant to hand over the amount on trust, especially when the usual fee was 250,000 pounds.

Majeed said: “What they’re saying is if this guy gives 150 we’ll give him two brackets (periods of play during which elements can be pre-arranged), whatever he wants, for the next game.

“They’re not willing to give you anything until you give a large, substantial amount.” The reporter had already paid 10,000 pounds, but the agent said it was “peanuts”.

“They (the players) just said to me: why is he not delivering?,” Majeed said. He told the reporter that Butt had asked: “What else does he want?” Majeed and young Pakistan bowler Mohammad Aamer have also been charged with the same offences but are not standing trial alongside Butt and Asif..

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