Cricket chief says fixing allegations against Pakistan players are most serious since Cronje

By Stuart Condie, AP
Saturday, September 4, 2010

ICC: fixing case is most serious since Cronje

LONDON — The International Cricket Council head called the fixing allegations against three suspended Pakistan players the most serious case of corruption to hit the sport since South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was banned for life 10 years ago.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said Friday that allegations that Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt conspired with bookmakers to deliver deliberate no-balls last week in the fourth test against England were hugely detrimental to cricket.

Police released the players without criminal charge later Friday after questioning them separately at a station in northwest London, but they are still charged with “various offenses” under the ICC’s anti-corruption code.

“In terms of corruption in the sport, this must rank as the next worst after the Hansie Cronje case,” Lorgat said.

Cronje admitted to forecasting results in exchange for money from a London bookmaker, prompting the ICC to create its Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).

There is no suggestion that the Pakistan players conspired to affect the result of the match at Lord’s — which Pakistan lost by an innings and 225 runs for its worst ever test defeat — but the trio could still be banned for life if found guilty.

The ICC could widen the investigation into the allegations against Asif, Amir and Butt — whom it suspended late Thursday — to cover January’s contentious test match against Australia in Sydney.

ACSU chairman Ronnie Flanagan said the current charges pertain only to the fourth test against England but that the ICC could still look into what he called a “dysfunctional” tour of Australia by Pakistan.

“We will go where the evidential trail takes us,” Flanagan said. “At this stage, we do not have such evidence to hand for that tour or that match.”

Flanagan added that there were separate ongoing investigations into other international sides but that he did not think that the current case was “the tip of an iceberg.”

Flanagan did acknowledge that cricket was especially suited to spot betting — when gamblers wager on individual events within a match rather than the result — and said that it might be time for a single body to regulate betting across all sports.

The body could monitor betting in the way WADA looks at doping.

“There is perhaps a much wider problem in terms of betting and the regulation of betting worldwide,” Lorgat said. “I have already been in touch with colleagues in a similar position in horse racing. Perhaps together, we can look at the whole problem with betting and the regulation thereof.”

In the meantime, Flanagan said the ICC will examine its own code.

He said he would congratulate the News of the World if the allegations stemming from its sting operation, in which an undercover reporter met with an associate of the players, resulted in convictions.

“We are not a police force,” Flanagan said. “We cannot arrest and we cannot engage in undercover operations. They brought it to light in ways the ICC would not want us to engage in.”

Flanagan and Lorgat would not comment on reports Friday in Britain’s Daily Mail that marked notes used in the sting operation that led to the allegations had been found in Butt’s locker.

The suspensions followed allegations by the News of the World that Amir and Asif deliberately bowled no-balls at predetermined points.

Amir, Asif and Butt were first questioned by police late Saturday when the allegations were made public and had their mobile phones confiscated.

The players’ lawyer said they had traveled to Kilburn police station voluntarily and had never been arrested.

Lawyer Elizabeth Robertson said the trio will continue to cooperate with police and ICC in investigations.

“There was no specific tipping point that caused us to act yesterday,” Flanagan said. “Rather it was the culmination of a process of examining all the evidence and taking legal advice. They have a case to answer in our disciplinary arena.”

But Pakistan’s top diplomat in Britain has criticized the suspension of the players before police investigations are complete.

Pakistan High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan said cricket’s ruling body should not have acted until investigations by the police and its own anti-corruption unit were complete. Hasan, who met with the players for three hours in London on Thursday, reiterated his belief that the players are innocent.

“There is a live police inquiry which takes precedence over both the ICC, civil or regulatory investigation and indeed any internal disciplinary investigation,” Hasan told BBC Radio 4. “To take action now is unhelpful, premature and unnecessary considering the players had already voluntarily withdrawn from playing.”

Flanagan said the 14-day window for an appeal by Pakistan could be extended because the complexity of the case means it will not be resolved immediately.

“It will certainly not be in weeks,” Flanagan said.

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