Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- A U.K. jury will be asked to start deliberations in the trial of two Pakistani cricketers accused of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments to cheat in a cricket Test match against England.
Justice Jeremy Cooke is scheduled to finish his final instructions to the jury today. He said former captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, couldn’t be convicted solely on the basis of what their agent Mazhar Majeed told an undercover News of the World reporter.
The journalist posed as a wealthy Indian businessman interested in fixing cricket matches. Two days ago, Cooke told the jury to accept that Majeed, 36, and another bowler Mohammad Amir, 19, were involved in fixing. The pair were also charged though are not on trial.
The case centers on allegations that the agent took 150,000 pounds ($239,000) from the undercover reporter and asked Butt to arrange for Asif and Amir to bowl no balls at a specified time in the Test match at Lord’s in London in August last year. Amir bowled two no balls and Asif bowled one at exactly the moments specified. The payment was to cover future bets as well, the prosecution said.
“You couldn’t convict either Butt or Asif on the weight of what Majeed told the journalist,” Cooke said. Earlier in the trial at Southwark Crown Court, journalist Mazher Mahmood said Majeed “bigged himself up,” by making claims about celebrities he knew and connections with officials in Pakistani cricket circles, as well as powerful fixers in India. The News of the World was shuttered by its owner News Corp. earlier this year after it was found to have gotten stories by hacking mobile phones.
The prosecution’s evidence includes secretly videotaped conversations between the journalist and Majeed, transcripts of text messages between the players and Majeed recovered by Canada’s Mounted Police and guidance provided by statisticians.
According to Benedict Bermange, a statistician used by Sky Sports who was present at Lord’s when the alleged incidents took place, Amir’s first no ball was the “largest breach of the front foot law he’d ever seen,” Cooke said. Amir was named player of series after Pakistan’s tour of England and is the youngest player to reach 50 Test wickets. Bermange also said the chances of predicting the exact points when Asif and Amir would bowl three no balls at Lord’s was about 1 in 840,000.
Police found 2,500 pounds in cash that matched the serial numbers of the money paid to Majeed by the reporter when they searched Butt’s hotel room on Aug. 28. The former team captain said he’d been given the money as part payment of a 5,000 pound fee for appearing at the opening of a South London ice cream parlor for Majeed.
Butt’s lawyer, Ali Bajwa, said it was possible no balls were deliberately bowled but his client had played no part in the alleged conspiracy.
“The prosecution doesn’t want the truth to get in the way of a jolly good theory but you have to go on evidence, not suspicion,” he said. “Guess work cannot play a part in your deliberations.”
Asif’s counsel Alexander Milne told the jury to follow the money trail. “It went to Mr. Butt and Mr. Amir. It’s up to you members of the jury what conclusions you draw from that but none of that money went to Mr. Asif,” he said.
In February, Butt, Asif and Amir were suspended from the game for violating the sport’s anti-corruption code by the International Cricket Council said.
As well as the players implicated in the Lord’s Test, the court heard recordings of Majeed in which he said he controlled six other players who were touring England.
Ravi Sawani, the former chief investigator at the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption and security unit, said in evidence that illegal gambling market for cricket on the Asian subcontinent is worth between 40 and 50 billion pounds. Sawani also investigated match fixing and gambling when as a detective for India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. He said in India it was possible to bet on specific incidents like no balls up to 10 seconds before they took place.
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