Cricketers jailed over fixing scandal

Three Pakistan cricketers and an agent are sent to prison in Britain for their involvement in one of the biggest fixing scandals to tarnish the sport.
Former Pakistan cricketer Muhammad Amir was one of three men convicted of fixing parts of a cricket test match against England in August 2010. (Sang Tan/Associated Press)

Three Pakistan cricketers and an agent were sent to prison in Britain on Thursday for their involvement in one of the biggest fixing scandals to tarnish the sport.

Former captain Salman Butt received two and a half years, the longest term of the three players. Muhammad Asif was sentenced to one year, while 19-year-old Muhammad Amir will serve six months.

Agent Mazhar Majeed was sentenced to two years and eight months. All four may be released for good behaviour after serving half their terms.

The players were found guilty of conspiring with Majeed to bowl deliberate no-balls as part of a betting scam during the test match against England at Lord's last year.

Judge Jeremy Cooke told Southwark Crown Court that the offences were "so serious that only a sentence of imprisonment will suffice to mark the nature of the crimes and to deter any other cricketer, agent or anyone else who considers corrupt activity of this kind."

"In Pakistan, where cricket is the national sport, the ordinary follower of the national team feels betrayed by your activities, as do your fellow countrymen in this country," Cooke said.

It's the biggest fixing scandal in cricket since South Africa captain Hanse Cronje was banned for life in 2000 for taking bribes from bookmakers.

The allegations originally surfaced after Majeed was recorded by an undercover reporter working for the now-defunct News of the World tabloid saying that the three Pakistan players had accepted money to fix betting markets.

Majeed was secretly filmed accepting the equivalent of $243,000 Cdn in cash from the journalist.

Butt said he had ignored the requests from Majeed, his agent, and the 28-year-old Asif — who reached No. 2 in the ICC's test bowling rankings the month before the Lord's test — said he had only bowled the no-ball at precisely the time Majeed said it would be delivered because Butt had told him to run faster moments before bowling.

The 27-year-old Butt, Asif and Amir have already received lengthy suspensions from an International Cricket Council anti-corruption tribunal.

Butt was banned for 10 years, five of which are suspended, Amir was banned for five years and Asif was given a seven-year ban, with two suspended.

" 'It's not cricket' was an adage," Cooke said Thursday. "It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional cricket and the followers of it which make the offences so serious.

"The image and integrity of what was once a game, but is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded three of you as heroes and would have given their eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skill that you had."