Mahmood gives cricket trial evidence behind screen

A London courtroom was cleared yesterday to protect the identity of undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood who was giving evidence at the Pakistan cricket match-fixing trial.

The judge, Mr Justice Cooke, also made an order banning publication of sketches or descriptions of the appearance of former News of the World journalist Mahmood when he gave evidence.

Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday that cricket agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, told Mahmood the Australians were “the biggest” when it came to rigging games.

Claiming match-fixing had been going on “for centuries”, he named celebrated former Pakistan fast-bowlers Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as alleged participants.

Majeed also boasted that he knew Hollywood star Brad Pitt and tennis ace Roger Federer “very well” and could arrange for them to promote a proposed cricket tournament in the United Arab Emirates, the court heard.

The jury was played covert recordings of meetings between the London-based agent and former News of the World journalist Mazher Mahmood, who was posing as a rich Indian businessman seeking major international players for the tournament.

Majeed me Mahmood at a west London restaurant on 18 August last year – the first day of Pakistan’s Oval Test against England – and after the meal discussed match-fixing in the undercover reporter’s car, the court was told.

Majeed alleged that Australian players would fix “brackets”, a set period of a match on which punters bet, for example, how many runs will be scored.

The agent said his players did not often fix the outcomes of matches but added: “We’re doing two results coming up soon, within a month.”

He told Mahmood it would cost between £50,000 and £80,000 for information about a bracket, £400,000 to fix the result of a 20-20 game, £450,000 for a one-day international and £1 million to rig the outcome of a Test match.

Majeed alleged that it was the Pakistan cricketers who asked him to get involved in match-fixing, the court heard.

He said in the tape played to the jury: “The players will never tell anybody else. They’re the ones that approached me about this. This is the beauty of it.

“I was friends with them for four or five years. And then they said this happens and I said ‘really?’ and I was so innocent of it.

“I said, ‘really, this happens? Bloody hell,’ and I didn’t even think of it. I didn’t think with my business mind.”

At an earlier meeting with the undercover journalist at the Hilton hotel in Park Lane, London, on 16 August ast year, Majeed claimed he could recruit Pitt, Federer and other celebrities to bring some glitz to the proposed UAE cricket tournament, the court heard.

“I know a lot of English actors as well … I know Brad Pitt very well … Roger Federer, I know very well. We could bring him in,” the agent said on a recording played to the court.

“All these people, like, you just get them to party.”

The undercover reporter indirectly referred to match-fixing at the end of the meeting, saying two or three players were needed “on the betting side”.

The agent replied: “There’s more than two or three, believe me, it’s already set, it’s already there.”

Mahmood gave evidence to the court from behind a screen shielding him from the public gallery.

Only his hands were visible as he turned the pages of a file containing transcripts of the undercover meetings with Majeed or took an occasional sip of water.

Prosecutors allege that Majeed, from Croydon, south London, conspired with Pakistan’s former Test captain, Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif, 28, and Mohammad Amir, 19, to fix parts of the Lord’s Test between England and Pakistan last August.

Butt and Asif, who are standing trial, deny conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.

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