Jury bombarded with evidence of spot-fixing

The alleged spot-fixing trial, involving Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif at Southwark Crown Court, has entered another operative phase with the first witness, the ICC's chief investigator Ravi Sawani, being called.

Updated: October 07, 2011 13:34 IST
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London: The alleged spot-fixing trial, involving Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif at Southwark Crown Court, has entered another operative phase with the first witness, the ICC's chief investigator Ravi Sawani, being called. Before this the jury was shown video footage of the now infamous no-balls during the Lord's Test last year and also records of phone and text conversations. (Also see: How the spot fixing saga unfolded)

Aftab Jafferjee QC, for the prosecution, resumed his opening address from the previous afternoon and went on to detail an alleged corrupt relationship between then Test captain Butt and his agent Mazhar Majeed. He finished off details of meetings, phone conversations and text messages surrounding The Oval Test against England last year, before moving on to details of the Lord's Test.

The jury was shown a replay of Mohammad Amir's no-ball from the first delivery of the third over before the proceedings were interrupted for lunch, and two more alleged pre-planned no-balls by Asif and Amir after the break. All sets of legal representatives had agreed previously that sound and commentary would not be played, presumably so as not to influence the jury's conclusion of the footage.

Butt and Asif are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following that Lord's Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with Majeed, teenage fast bowler Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.

They were exposed by the now defunct British tabloid the News of the World in an undercover sting operation. Majeed was filmed revealing when no-balls would be delivered by the bowlers. That footage from secret cameras was also played to the jury on Thursday morning.

After lunch the undercover News of the World journalist Mazhar Mahmood, otherwise known as 'the fake Sheikh' from the time he snared former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, was to give his evidence. But because Jafferjee did not complete his opening until 15.28, there was no time for Mahmood and Ravi Sawani, the ICC's senior consultant in anti-corruption and security matters, was last to appear. Mahmood is now expected to appear on Monday as the case is adjourned until then.

Butt and Asif again sat through the proceedings in the dock, with Asif accompanied by Mr Khan from the national database of interpreters, while Butt sat two seats down from his former team-mate, wearing a brown velvet jacket, jeans and Adidas trainers.

An interesting aspect of the morning's account centred around conversations between Mahmood, referred to in court as 'the journalist' to avoid confusion with Majeed, and Majeed himself. Jafferjee told how Mahmood was expecting no-balls to be delivered that had been promised him as proof that would appease his fictitious backers in the Far East.

But Majeed said they could not be delivered on the third day as coach Waqar Younis had held a team meeting and ordered his bowlers to cut down on the extras after 32 had been allowed on the second day - six wides and five no-balls. Instead, the prosecution went on to explain, an alternative plan was hatched whereby Butt would bat out a maiden. That did not happen in the event.

Of further interest was the heavy phone and text traffic between Butt, Majeed and Amir leading up to the Lord's Test - Asif less so. In fact, Majeed called Amir at 1.27am at his hotel while he was sleeping, the morning before the match was due to begin, after having collected £140,000 from Mahmood for the promise of three pre-determined no-balls and future fixing, the jury heard.

All stories of phone and text traffic were substantiated with official records from phone companies that proved the dialogue between the various parties. Jafferjee then told how Amir messaged Majeed at 6.24am on the morning of the Lord's Test and said 'this is my friend's number in Pakistan, when you're done send them a message'.

Amir then made repeated calls to a number in Pakistan. Majeed later that morning made a call to a regular Indian number he had often phoned. The prosecution had already told of how Majeed boasted his betting contacts were in India.

But while the jury had been swamped with so much information and evidence of alleged corrupt dealings between the defendants, Jafferjee was clear in what he wanted them to remember the most. And that was the phone traffic between all four alleged conspirators on the evening before the third no-ball was delivered.

The sequence in Jafferjee's address that best supports this sentiment was the evening after a weather-affected first day at Lord's. The bet was for three pre-determined no-balls but bad light ended play for the day before the third no-ball could be bowled, the jury heard.

A series of "frenetic activity" on the phone between all four then takes place within a couple of hours of the match being called off for the day.

"It is an irresistible inference, say the prosecution, that between these four men, what is being sorted out is that third no-ball," Jafferjee told the court. "How will that now take place? The credibility staked - as well as money exchanged - is high. An arrangement for the next day is still not finalised.

"Why do we say that? Because when the journalist calls Majeed, it is plain that things are not finalised. More texts have to follow between them. Furthermore, that triangulation of calls has to be repeated, involving the three players and Majeed," which phone records in the hands of the jury apparently exhibit.

The prosecution also detailed the monies found in the players' rooms and on Majeed - whose wife had £500 of marked £50 notes from the News of the World found in her purse and a further £2,500 was found in his Aston Martin car.

Butt had the most cash in his room at the Regents Park Marriott Hotel when it was raided by police on the Saturday night of the Test - after Mahmood had alerted the police of his investigation. That cash included various currencies and totalled more than double the amount of cash that could be explained for through daily expenses - players received £114 a day in England, while Butt pocked a £250 weekly bonus for being captain.

Much of the money was found in a locked suitcase that Butt said belonged to his wife and for which he did not have the key. When it was opened they found a "large" amount of currency - some of which was in envelopes and some not. In total the stash included £14,003 in one spot, and £15,999 in various denominations in envelopes. There was also US$12,617, 24,300 of UAE dirhams, AUS$710, 26,015 Pakistani rupees, $350 Canadian, 440 South African rand - as well as four mobile phones.

Meanwhile, Sawani was in front of the jury for just over half an hour. His responses, while not very specific as to the case itself, will have left the the jury more familiar with the vast sums of money involved in the illegal cricket betting industry.

"One single legal betting company could generate £40 million for a one-day international," Sawani told the court, "For an India-Pakistan one-day international in Mumbai, you can have as much as $200 million bet in the illegal betting market in Mumbai and then (additionally) there are the cities around India, the UK, the South East (Asia) and Dubai."

Sawani told of the sinister underworld that exists in the illegal betting industry and said that accounts are settled the day after a bet is made and that there are no defaulters because "mafias are the enforcers".

The trial continues.

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