London: Mohammad Asif's lawyer urged the jury at the alleged spot-fixing trial to "follow the money" and suggested that if they do that they would conclude that his client is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Alexander Milne QC took about 90 minutes to present his closing speech to the jury on the 15th afternoon of the trial, in which Asif and his former captain Salman Butt stand accused of cheating. It was by far the briefest of closings after the prosecution and Butt's counsel had each taken over four hours.
Milne relied on short, sharp facts to make his impact on the jury and his key points surrounded a lack of clear association between his client and the agent at the centre of the alleged fix Mazhar Majeed, while also revealing how Asif had never pocketed any money at any point from the agent, who had received payments of £10,000 and then £140,000 from an undercover News of the World journalist. No marked money was discovered in Asif's room during police searches.
"Where did that the News of the World money (£150,000) go?" Milne asked the jury. "It went to Mr. Butt (£2,500) and Mr. Amir (£1,500). It's up to you members of the jury what conclusions you draw from that but none of that money went to Mr. Asif. "
Asif was out of the team hotel when Majeed arrived with the money for the players. "If Majeed was that keen to pay Mr. Asif he would have found a way. If you follow the money, you will find that it does not lead to Mr. Asif," Milne added. Milne made reference to the 1970s Watergate scandal involving President Nixon which coined the phrase "follow the money."
Butt and Asif face charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the Lord's Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with Majeed and Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.
Milne spent the first half of his speech seeking to distance Asif from Majeed. The court has already heard in various ways over the last three weeks that Asif liked to dine alone with friends outside of the team, never with the likes of Majeed and Butt.
"Asif was never in Majeed's company," Milne said. "The only times they spent together was on a tennis court in the West Indies (during the Twenty20 World Cup) and twice in London hotel foyers during the tour. There are no photos, no signed contracts between them and there were never any dinners."
Milne held aloft the telephone transcript, a beefy wad of papers held in a plastic binder, which has been circulated as evidence of the traffic between the various implicated parties. He explained to the jury that in the period investigated from August 15 to August 28, Majeed contacted Amir and Butt every day but never Asif.
"When Mazhar Majeed says he speaks to 'his boys' every single day, I can tell you ladies and gentlemen that he is not referring to Mr. Asif. The contact between Majeed and Mr. Asif in that period comes down to just 12 minutes (collectively). That is the entire contact between Majeed and Mr. Asif. There is no talk of an Adidas deal, no Tag Heur, no Ray Bans or anything else for Mr. Asif.
"Majeed said the boys have dinner with him. Not Mr. Asif and that's because they never spent any time together. Mr. Asif has got nothing legitimate from Majeed and nothing, we say, illegitimate. Not even from (his former manager) Azhar (Majeed).
"Majeed never spoke to Mr. Asif in the 36 hours leading up that meeting at the Copthorne Tara Hotel when Majeed received the £140,000. However there were 65 forms of contact between Butt and Majeed and Amir and Majeed. That equates to contact every 34 minutes in that period. Butt and Amir were in very, very regular contact with Majeed. Mr. Asif? Not a word. Not a whisper. Not a meeting.
"Of course, Mr. Asif did hear from Mr. Butt then for 16 seconds after the meeting. The assumption from the prosecution is that Butt says 'jump' and Asif says 'how high'? The truth is 16 seconds is barely enough time to say hello, how are you, never mind arranging a fix.
"The prosecution says it's not the number of calls with regards to Mr. Asif, it's the context. But what they would love to be able to say is it's not the number of calls, it's the content, which they don't have."
Milne added: "This man (Asif) hardly knows Mazhar Majeed. He has never received anything from him. He owes him nothing. So why would he risk his career for a few hundred pounds?"
Milne also pointed out to the jury - with a printed booklet containing graphics - the clear difference between Amir's two no-balls and Asif's single no-ball, which he suggested was "an inch or an inch and a half over the popping crease" after a 28-yard run-up.
He also again pointed the finger at Butt and said the unorthodox fielding position that Butt took up in the tenth over and the abuse he allegedly directed at Asif was meant to "get a rise out of Mr. Asif as he knew how to increase the probability of a no-ball", adding that Butt was in cahoots with Majeed as much as Asif was not.
The case continues.