NEWS
02/11/2011 08:22 GMT | Updated 02/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Cricket Match Fixing: Guilty Trio Return To Court As Sporting World Reels

The three Pakistan cricket players guilty of match-fixing returned to court on Wednesday.

Sentencing has now been adjourned until 10am on Thursday.

Salman Butt, the former Pakistan Test captain and fast bowler Mohammad Asif have been found guilty of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments at Southwark Crown Court.

Another player, Mohammad Amir, had pleaded guilty to both charges at a pre-trial hearing in September, although that fact could not be reported until now. Sports agent Mazhar Majeed has also pleaded guilty.

The players returned to court amid building evidence that the inquiry could be widened to consider larger patterns of unusual betting in cricket, possibly involving other Pakistani players.

In court the judge rejected Mohammad Amir's claim that his involvement in the no-ball scandal was his first and only offence.

Amir's lawyers agreed a basis of plea with prosecutors when he admitted conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments at a pre-trial hearing in September. But the judge dismissed Amir's claim that he was not involved in fixing before the game at Lord's in north London.

"I refuse to accept that basis of plea on the material I have seen," he told the court.

"There are certainly texts and the like which suggest that Amir's first and only involvement was not limited to Lord's, it was not an isolated and one-off event."

While the Crown Prosecution Service focused on three no-balls delivered in the 26 to 29 August Test match between England and Pakistan, evidence reportedly emerged in court of other instances of possible corruption during that summer.

During the case the jury heard that Mazhar Majeed, the sports agent recorded offering to fix matches for an undercover News of the World journalist, claimed that seven players from the Pakistan team were involved in fixing.

According to The Guardian the players named included Butt, Asif and Amir, as well as Kamran Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal and Imran Farhat.

None of the latter four players has faced any criminal charges.

Aftab Jafferjee, QC for the prosecution, said in court that Umar Akmal led a "charmed life" and his involvement along with that of Farhat raised "deep, deep suspicions".

According to the Daily Mail, texts recovered by Scotland Yard and police in Canada seem to suggest that players were involved in fixing wickets, scoring rates and bowling mistakes in at least five matches.

On text exchange found by the police was sent on July 29, the first day of a Test match at Trent Bridge.

In the message Majeed allegedly messaged a contact named 'Raj' with the words: "It is hard to do this but they will try. Two edges gave away eight in first over today so not always in their hands. They will make sure they try though. ... If they do it they will want to be paid."

The International Cricket Council has said it could investigate the claims, and will work with Scotland Yard to review evidence collected for the case.

"I am satisfied that we have worked closely with the CPS and Metropolitan Police throughout this entire process, and I believe that this case has shown that it is possible for criminal authorities and sports bodies to cooperate with each other, in difficult circumstances, in the best interests of the sport and the public at large," the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said on Tuesday.

"I would reiterate, as I have on every occasion that I have spoken on this matter, that the ICC has a zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption and that we will use everything within our power to ensure that any suggestion of corrupt activity within our game is comprehensively investigated and, where appropriate, robustly prosecuted."

The revelations have former players from around the world wondering if they too were involved in matches that were unwittingly fixed.

Former England captain Michael Vaughn, writing in The Telegraph, said the court decision "destroys our trust in sport".

"Go back to the Test we won against Pakistan in Karachi in December 2000," Vaughn writes. "They collapsed from a strong position to leave us a small total to chase, which we did as night descended.

"It was a very surreal atmosphere and I remember feeling that there was something not right about it at the time. Was it just a dodgy wicket or were there other forces at play?"