Pakistan cricketers face fixing charges in Britain

Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif face criminal charges in Britain over allegations they conspired with bookmakers to fix a match last year against England.

The ICC found three Pakistan players guilty of corruption on Saturday and banned each of them from cricket for at least five years in the sport's biggest scandal of the past decade.

Former captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir received their punishment at an International Cricket Council tribunal in Doha. Butt was given a 10-year ban with five years suspended, Asif a seven-year ban with two suspended, while Amir was banned for five years.

The players have 21 days to appeal to sport's highest body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

"We will appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport," said Shahid Karim, Amir's lawyer. "This sentence is too harsh when Amir did nothing wrong. We are very confident that the arbitration court will give us a result in our favour."

The players had been suspended since Sept. 3 after a British tabloid alleged they bowled no-balls at prearranged times during the fourth test between Pakistan and England in August at Lord's to fix "spot-betting" markets.

It is alleged The News of the World newspaper paid 150,000 pounds ($241,000) to the players' agent, Mazhar Majeed.

Michael Beloff, the head of the ICC's corruption unit, said the proven charges related to the Lord's test rather than a preceding match at The Oval.

"The tribunal found that ... Mr. Asif agreed to bowl and did bowl a deliberate no-ball in the Lord's test match played between Pakistan and England from 26 to 29 August 2010, Mr. Amir agreed to bowl and did bowl two deliberate no-balls in the same test, and Mr. Butt was party to the bowling of those deliberate no balls, were proved," Beloff said in a statement.

The tribunal cleared Butt of batting out a maiden over during the test at The Oval for financial gain, but proved the charge against the opening batsman of failing to report an illegal approach by Majeed.

The players were mobbed by dozens of supporters when they walked out of the tribunal after the verdict was announced, the fans chanting slogans in support of them.

"The ruling is not fair. They (ICC) are doing it just to the Pakistan players," said Yasir Ghumman, a 26-year-old Pakistan man who works as a sales executive in Doha. "The World Cup will be starting soon and the ICC is just trying to pressurize Pakistan."

Butt and Asif —who along with Amir had faced a six-day ICC hearing that ended Jan. 11 —will have to participate in an anti-corruption program supervised by the Pakistan Cricket Board in order to not have the suspended part of their sentences imposed.

On Friday, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said the players and their agent will face criminal charges in that country, summoning them on charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat.

CPS head Simon Clements said the organization, which was responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by British police, believed it had enough proof to convict the players.

"We are satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute," Clements said Friday.

Clements said the CPS will apply for extradition orders against Butt, Asif and Amir if they do not return to Britain next month.

Majeed is due to appear for an initial hearing at London's City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on March 17.

In Pakistan, former test captain Moin Khan believed the careers of the 28-year-old Asif and the 26-year-old Butt are over.

"Amir is the only player who can now play after five years," Khan said of the 18-year-old left-arm paceman. "I think the international careers of other two are finished.

"Bad and good people are there in all professions, but today's decision have a lot of impact on the coming generation."

Former PCB chief executive Arif Abbas believes the players should have each been banned for 10 years, while ex-ICC president Ehsan Mani of Pakistan demanded the resignation of PCB chief Ijaz Butt.

"The careers of these three cricketers are over and the responsibility lies with the Pakistan Cricket Board," Mani said. "PCB chief Ijaz Butt should resign."

Amir's brother, Mohammad Ijaz, spoke of his disappointment at the decision.

"We were 100 per cent sure that he would be cleared and play in the World Cup, but we have no complaints against anyone," Ijaz said from Lahore. "(Amir) told me to ask our mother not to worry as he will be appealing against the ban."

It is not the first time that international cricket has been hit by spot- and match-fixing. Former Pakistan captain Salim Malik and Ataur Rehman were banned for life in 1999 by Justice Malik Mohammad Qayyum, who also fined several leading players, including Younis and Wasim Akram.

Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin and ex-South Africa skipper Hansie Cronje, who later died in a plane crash, also received similar punishments for their involvement in match-fixing around that time.