|Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt have been charged with conspiracy to cheat [Reuters]
British prosecutors have charged suspended Pakistan captain Salman Butt and opening bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir with taking bribes to fix incidents in the fourth cricket Test against England at Lord's last year.
The trio are accused of arranging incidents, such as bowling no-balls at pre-agreed times, during the match.
Britain's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Friday that the trio, along with a fourth man, 35-year-old sports agent Mazhar Majeed of Croydon, England, had been charged with conspiracy to obtain and
accept corrupt payments and with conspiracy to cheat.
"These charges relate to allegations that Mr Majeed accepted money from a third party to arrange for the players to bowl 'no balls' on 26 and 27 August 2010, during Pakistan's fourth Test at Lord's Cricket Ground in London," said Simon Clements, head of the CPS Special Crime Division.
Amir told Pakistan television channel Ary he had just learnt about the decision.
"I don't know the details. It has come as a surprise and I will now be consulting my lawyer for further course of action," Amir said.
Clements said Majeed had been ordered to appear at London's City of Westminster magistrates court on March 17.
'Asked to return'
"Summonses for the same court date have been issued for the three players and they have been asked to return to this country voluntarily, as they agreed to do in September last year," Clements said.
"Their extradition will be sought should they fail to return."
Obtaining and accepting corrupt payments carries a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment while cheating carries a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment, the CPS said.
The announcement came on the day Pakistan confirmed Shahid Afridi as captain for the World Cup, which starts on February 19.
"It is a very bad thing to happen to Pakistan cricket and that too just before the World Cup," former captain Rashid Latif told the Reuters news agency from Dubai.
The three players, who have all denied wrongdoing, will learn on Saturday if they face sporting sanctions when they hear the verdict of an independent anti-corruption tribunal, convened
by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Doha.
A three-member anti-corruption tribunal heard the case against the trio last month for more than 45 hours spread over six days, poring over oral and written testimonies, watching video recordings and listening to tapes and forensic submissions.
The cricketers face possible life bans if they are found guilty. Amir left on Friday for Doha for ICC tribunal verdict.
The ICC and the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Friday that they had no comment to make.