Australia captain Ponting shocked at claims as ICC expected to look into 82 Test matches.
|Pakistan captain Butt is one of those who has been questioned by police as the tour of England goes on [GALLO/GETTY]|
Two men and a woman have been arrested in Britain in connection with allegations that Pakistani
cricket players were involved in a betting scam, customs officials and sources have said.
The trio were arrested on Sunday in connection with money-laundering charges.
“Three individuals were arrested on Sunday as part of an ongoing investigation into money laundering,” Sara Gaines, from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said.
“This includes two 35 year olds – a male and a female – from the Croydon area, and a 49-year-old male from the Wembley area.
“These individuals were arrested, questioned and have been bailed pending further investigation.”
Croydon and Wembley are suburbs of London, the British capital.
A source told the AFP news agency that the arrests were linked to allegations that members of the Pakistan cricket team were involved in a betting scam, although HMRC refused to confirm this or give further details.
The announcement on Tuesday came as the International Cricket Council (ICC) hoped to release its own report into the alleged scam involving Pakistan players and as three Pakistan players, named by a British newspaper as being involved in the betting scam, were planned to travel to London to meet the head of their country’s cricket board.
Captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif are due to meet Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt on Wednesday before rejoining the squad.
The trio – plus wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal – have been questioned by UK police and had their phones confiscated following reports they were bribed to fix incidents during the fourth Test against England which finished on Sunday.
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from London, said: “There are a lot of people calling for those players to voluntarily suspend themselves from the Pakistani team.
“But they seem to be hanging on in there and insisting that they are innocent until proven guilty.
“But the allegations are compelling and the evidence against them does seem substantial.”
Cricket’s world governing body is set to release its report into the alleged betting scam involving Pakistan players within a few days.
ICC’s anti-corruption unit could relase their findings as early as this Thursday, by which time Pakistan’s top crime agency could have joined British detectives in investigating the allegations.
The ICC have said Pakistan’s tour will continue for now, with a Twenty20 international against England coming up at the weekend.
A senior official at the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Karachi told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that a three-member team was likely to leave for London on Wednesday and planned to meet British police and players.
The Pakistan team arrived in Taunton in west England on Monday to play a warm-up game for a seven-match one-day series against England, starting with Sunday’s Twenty20.
No suspensions without proof
PCB chairman Butt said the players being investigated would not be suspended without proof of wrongdoing, however.
“There is a case going on over here with Scotland Yard,” Ijaz told the cricinfo website.
“This is only an allegation. There is still no charge or proof on that account. So at this stage there will be no action taken.”
The ICC’s anti-corruption unit has been asked to submit a report on its investigation within the next three days.
ICC president Sharad Pawar said on Monday the issue had been discussed in a teleconference by the head of the council’s anti-corruption unit Ravi Sawani, Ijaz and his English counterpart Giles Clarke.
“We at the ICC are waiting for definite information from the PCB and our own anti-corruption unit. We hope to get something in the next two to three days’ time and that information would lead to appropriate action, if required,” he said.
On Monday, the police said they had released on bail a 35-year-old man who had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers following the report in Britain’s News of the World newspaper.
According to the report, Mazhar Majeed, an agent who claimed to represent 10 Pakistan players including Butt, said Amir and Asif had bowled three no-balls between them by pre-arrangement in the fourth Test.
The report also cast doubt on the second Test between Pakistan and Australia in Sydney this year when Australia made a remarkable comeback to win by 36 runs after overcoming a 206-run first-innings deficit.
The scandal has outraged cricket fans in Pakistan where, on Monday, protestors in Lahore threw rotten tomatoes at donkeys who had the names of the players accused of taking bribes stuck on their foreheads.