London:In an unprecedented crackdown to restore the game's credibility, ICC on Friday charged and suspended Pakistan's tainted trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir under its anti-corruption code in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal.
The International Cricket Council said the three players have been notified officially of the offences they are alleged to have committed and have been provisionally suspended pending a decision on the charges. (See Pics: Pakistan cricket in a 'fix')
"In accordance with the provisions of the code, this means they are immediately barred from participating in all cricket and related activities until the case has been concluded," ICC said in a statement.
"I found that all these three players were absolutely innocent. They were not involved, they have been taken for a ride and the agent (Mazhar Majeed) was the culprit, in the sense that he was responsible for defrauding some Asian bookies," Pakistan High Commissioner to Britain Hassan said. (Read: ICC 'had no business' to suspend trio)
"The British press says Asian but if they were from Pakistan they (British media) would have called Pakistanis, which means some Indian bookies were involved in it. This Majeed allegedly defrauded these Indian bookies and so the newspaper investigated this sort of sting operation through their sources here," he said.
The ICC, however, said the players, who are due to appear before the Scotland Yard on Friday for interrogation, "have a right to contest the provisional suspension and a further opportunity to defend these charges at a full hearing before an independent Anti-Corruption Tribunal in accordance with Article 5 of the code."
The players have 14 days from their receipt of the charge sheet to indicate their desire for a hearing, the sport's governing body said.
ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said, "We will not tolerate corruption in cricket. We must be decisive with such matters and if proven, these offences carry serious penalties up to a life ban.
"The ICC will do everything possible to keep such conduct out of the game and we will stop at nothing to protect the sport's integrity. While we believe the problem is not widespread, we must always be vigilant."
Lorgat said the game's integrity is of "paramount importance".
"Prompt and decisive action will be taken against those who seek to harm it. However, the facts must first be established through a thorough investigation and it is important to respect the right of due process when addressing serious allegations of this sort," he said.
"Make no mistake -- once the process is complete, if any players are found to be guilty, the ICC will ensure that the appropriate punishment is handed out. We will not tolerate corruption in this great game," the ICC chief said.
The alleged offences against Pakistani players, if proved, could lead to life bans. There is also a possibility, at the discretion of the independent tribunal, that a fine would be imposed in addition to a ban.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had already withdrawn the three players from the Twenty20 and ODI series against England until the completion of the inquiry.
Refusing to accept that the three players were dropped in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal, the Pakistan High Commissioner to Britain, Hassan later told the media that the trio had themselves asked the Board not to consider them for the ODI series as they were under a great deal of mental stress because of the allegations against them.
But despite PCB and High Commissioner's statements, sources have indicated that the decision to ground the players had come on the insistence of the ICC when PCB Chairman, Ijaz Butt met with Lorgat late on Thursday here.
The PCB has already hired a British lawyer and also sent its own legal counsel, Tafazzul Rizvi to defend the players while the Pakistan government has also rushed the deputy attorney general for the same purpose.