LONDON May 19 – The trial of three Pakistan cricketers and their agent on charges of corruption relating to 'spot-fixing' in England last year is due to get underway in London.
Former captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer have, along with agent Mazher Majeed, been charged with conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments.
The quartet were charged after police inquiries following accusations in the News of the World newspaper that no-balls were deliberately bowled in the fourth Test match at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground last August.
Friday’s hearing at Southwark Crown Court, south London, is expected to be a procedural affair where the date for the trial proper will be set.
Of the three players, only Asif has stated his intention to attend Friday’s proceedings.
The four accused appeared at a hearing at London’s City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, on March 17, which set the date for Friday’s court case, and were granted unconditional bail.
The British-based Majeed was told to surrender his passport.
At the March hearing, prosecutor Sally Walsh said all four men were accused of having "conspired together and with others unknown for £150,000 ($240,000) as inducement or reward to bowl three no-balls at the fourth Test".
She added the three no-balls had been delivered "for the purpose of enabling another to cheat at gambling".
Prior knowledge of when no-balls will occur could be exploited in what is known as ‘spot-betting’, hugely popular in South Asia, whereby gamblers bet on various possible incidents in a match rather than the final result.
In English law, accepting corrupt payments is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Cheating is an offence under Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005, carrying a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
A separate and independent International Cricket Council (ICC) anti-corruption tribunal has already banned the three players for a minimum of five years each.
All three have, however, filed appeals against their bans at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.