The three Pakistan cricketers who conspired to fix parts of a Test match against England last year have been sentenced at Crown Court in London.
Salman Butt, who was the captain at the time, was sentenced to 30 months in jail on Thursday after being found guilty of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling earlier this week.
Mohammad Asif, a bowler, was sentenced to one year in jail after also being found guilty on both counts.
Teenage sensation Mohammad Amir was sentenced to six months.
Mazhar Majeed, the players’ agent, was handed a sentence of two years and eight months.
The jury had returned the verdict at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, after nearly four days – 17 sitting hours in total – of deliberation.
Butt and Asif had pleaded not guilty to the two charges of conspiracy.
The 12 jurors were unanimous in their decision that both players were guilty of conspiracy to cheat, but could only reach a 10-2 majority verdict on the charge that Butt took money to do so.
|Asif had already been banned from cricket for seven years when he went to trial [Reuters]|
Al Jazeera’s Lee Wellings, reporting from London, said:
“Chaotic and dramatic scenes here this monring. The three cricketers whose cricket careers were already in ruins have now lost their liberty from the decision of the judge in this British court.
“The judge… talked about the old phrase: it’s just not cricket. The sport has been corrupted, it’s become more of a business. He needed to send a message out.”
The prosecution alleged that Butt, 27, and Asif, 28, conspired with British agent Mazher Majeed to ensure the deliberate bowling of no-balls in the fourth Test against England in August last year.
‘Masses of money’
Hearing more than four weeks of evidence, the jury of six men and six women heard that there were huge sums to be made by fixing parts of matches, known as spot-fixing, for gambling syndicates.
Butt and Asif were charged after allegations about their involvement in spot-fixing appeared in Britain’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid, shortly after the Lord’s Test.
Majeed was recorded by an undercover reporter saying that the three Pakistan players had accepted money to fix betting markets and secretly filmed accepting $242,000 in cash from the journalist.
Majeed claimed he had been carrying out match-fixing for two-and-a-half years, had seven players from Pakistan’s national side working for him, and had made “masses and masses of money”.
He promised the reporter that Asif and Amir would deliver three no-balls – that is, when the bowler’s leading foot is over the line of the bowling crease before the ball is released – at specific points during the Lord’s Test.
“Everybody knows that we have faced a great amount of shame for Pakistan and the team as well. I think this is a lesson for us to move in the right direction, especially for newcomers”
Shahid Afridi, Pakistan cricketer
The no-balls were bowled as promised, with the probability of someone predicting this by chance estimated by a cricket statistician as one and a half million to one.
Butt, who was appointed Pakistan’s captain during last year’s tour of England, told the court the agent asked him to rig parts of crunch games at the 2010 World Twenty20 competition and last summer’s Test series, but he had ignored the requests.
He made his Test debut for Pakistan in 2003 and has played 33 Test matches and 78 one-day internationals.
He admitted he did not fulfil his duty to inform the cricketing authorities about the corrupt approach.
The trio have already received lengthy suspensions from an International Cricket Council anti-corruption tribunal in Doha, Qatar, for fixing parts of the Lord’s Test.
Butt was banned for 10 years, five of which are suspended, Amir was banned for five years and Asif was given a seven-year ban, with two suspended.
Shahid Afridi, the fromer Pakistani captain said:”Everybody knows that we have faced a great amount of shame for Pakistan and the team as well. I think this is a lesson for us to move in the right direction – especially for newcomers.
“I really feel sorry for the family members of those players Salman Butt and Asif who are allegedly involved. This kind of blame becomes your identity for your whole life.”