Salman Butt was captain of Pakistan when fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir delivered deliberate no-balls during a Test match against England at Lord’s in August 2010. The trio admitted to working with a bookmaker and served time in prison in England before being suspended for a minimum five years by the International Cricket Council. The ban ended on September 1, 2015.

Undercover reporters from News of the World secretly videotaped Mazhar Majeed accepting money and informing the reporters that fast bowlers Asif and Amir would deliberately bowl no-balls at specific points in an over. This information could be used by gamblers to place bets with inside information (i.e. spot-fixing). In response to these allegations, Scotland Yard arrested Majeed on a charge of match fixing. The International Cricket Council (ICC) banned three players—Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir—for terms of between 5 and 10 years. In November 2011, Butt and Asif were found guilty by a London court on criminal charges relating to spot-fixing. Amir and Majeed had entered guilty pleas on the same charges. All four were given prison sentences, ranging from six months to 32 months.

Prior concerns about corruption

In July 2010, the ICC Anti Corruption and Security Unit served notices to two unnamed players seeking information into allegations of spot and match fixing. These notices were sent out to the players following England’s first 2010 Test Match against Pakistan, at Nottingham. The notices informed the players that the ACSU was seeking certain information and gave the pair 14 days to respond.

Sting Operation

In August 2010, reporters from News of the World established contact with Mazhar Majeed, a sports agent who was suspected of involvement in match-fixing. In the video posted by News of the World, Majeed, counting out the bribe money, predicted that Amir would be bowling the third over in the fourth test at Lord’s, and that the first ball of the over would be a no-ball delivery. Amir did bowl the third over, and on his first delivery from the over, bowled a no-ball delivery. Commentary described the delivery as an “enormous no-ball, good half a metre over the line”. Majeed also predicted that the sixth delivery of the tenth over would be a no-ball, and that ball, delivered by Asif, was also a no-ball delivery.

Yawar Saeed, the Pakistan team manager, declined to call for the resignation of team captain Salman Butt, implicated in the scandal. PCB president Ijaz Butt maintained that the players were innocent. At the same time, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif suggested that the spot-fixing controversy might be a set-up and that the leaked video contained a certain number of ambiguities. Iqbal Mohammad Ali, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and chairman of the standing committee on sports, called for the removal of the players in question from the team.

Criminal Investigation

As a result of the newspaper report, Scotland Yard announced the same day that they had arrested Majeed on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers. Two days later, after the Test match had been completed, three more arrests were made (two unidentified men and an unidentified woman) on suspicion of money laundering in connection with the allegations. Police also seized the cell phones of Asif, Amir, and Salman Butt as part of their investigations. Scotland Yard announced on 17 September 2010 that the initial file of the investigation had been passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service for them to decide whether to charge the players or not. On 5 November 2010 Scotland Yard announced that they had passed on the second file of fixing evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service. This moved the case one step closer to the courts.

On 1 November 2011, at Southwark Crown Court, Majeed, Asif, Amir and Butt were found guilty of conspiracy to cheat at gambling and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments. Majeed and Amir were convicted following guilty pleas. The judge, Jeremy Cooke, rejected a plea in mitigation from Amir that he had been involved in spot-fixing on only one occasion, on the grounds that the contents of text messages submitted as evidence suggested otherwise.

The convictions were broadly accepted and welcomed within the world of cricket. Former Pakistan captain Aamer Sohail spoke of a “shameful” day for Pakistani cricket, adding “this is what happens when you don’t react quickly enough to fight corruption”. Former Pakistan Cricket Board chair Khalid Mehmood described the case as “an example for cricket in the future”.

On 3 November 2011, jail terms were handed down of 30 months for Butt, one year for Asif, six months for Amir and two years eight months for Majeed.

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