Pakistan cricketers found guilty after NoW scoop

Two Pakistani cricketers have been found guilty of a match-fixing plot exposed by the now defunct News of the World during last year’s tour of England.

Former Test captain Salman Butt, 27, and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, 28, plotted to bowl deliberate no-balls in the Lord’s Test as part of a lucrative betting scam.

The pair were caught after the NoW’s undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood recorded UK-based sports agent Mazhar Majeed, 36, boasting of how he could arrange for Pakistan cricketers to rig games for money.

During the trial Mahmood gave evidence behind a screen, and the judge made an order banning publication of sketches or descriptions of his appearance

Mahmood went on to win scoop of the year and news reporter of the year at the 2011 Press Awards, and now works at sister title The Sunday Times.

Majeed claimed he had been carrying out match-fixing for two-and-a-half years and had made “masses and masses of money”. He spoke of the advantages of “grooming” younger cricketers to work with him and bragged that he had seven players in Pakistan’s national side rigging games for him.

The corrupt agent also discussed deliberately losing the Oval Test match against England last summer for over a million dollars and plotted to fix games at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies.

The fixing scandal emerged after NoW investigations editor Mahmood approached Majeed in August last year pretending to be a wealthy Indian businessman seeking major international cricketers for a tournament.

Majeed took £15,000 and promised the reporter that Asif and fellow fast bowler Mohammad Amir, 19, would deliver three no-balls at specific points during the Lord’s Test between Pakistan and England from August 26 to 29 last year.

The no-balls were bowled exactly as promised. Butt and Asif both strenuously denied any involvement in match-fixing.

But after deliberating for nearly 17 hours, a jury at London’s Southwark Crown Court unanimously convicted the pair of conspiracy to cheat. The jurors also found Butt guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments by a majority of 10 to two.

The jury has not yet reached a verdict on whether Asif was also guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments, and is continuing its deliberations.

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