Pakistan’s Butt and Asif convicted in spot fixing trial

LONDON, (Reuters) – Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt  and Mohammad Asif were found guilty today of fixing part of  a test match against England in a case that prosecutors said  revealed rampant corruption at the heart of international  cricket.
Former captain Butt, 27, and opening bowler Asif, 28,  plotted to bowl deliberate no-balls at pre-arranged times during  the Lord’s test in August last year.
The men will be sentenced later this week and Butt faces up  to seven years in jail or a fine. They have already been banned  from playing by the International Cricket Council for a minimum  of five years.
The “spot fixing” scam was orchestrated by Butt and sports  agent Mazhar Majeed and involved not only Asif, but fellow  opening bowler Mohammad Amir, 19, London’s Southwark Crown Court  was told.
During the three-week trial, the jury heard how an  undercover reporter recorded Majeed, 36, boasting of how he  could arrange for Pakistan players to rig games for money and  how huge sums could be made for gambling syndicates.
Majeed claimed he had been carrying out match-fixing for  2-1/2 years, had seven players from Pakistan’s national side  working for him, and had made “masses and masses of money”.
He told Mazher Mahmood, an undercover journalist with the  now defunct News of the World newspaper, that it would cost  between 50,000 pounds and 80,000 pounds to fix “brackets”, a set  period of a match on which punters bet.
Rigging the outcome of a test match would cost one million  pounds, Majeed told him. The agent was secretly filmed accepting  150,000 pounds ($240,000) in cash from the journalist as part of  an arrangement to rig games.
Majeed promised the reporter that Asif and Amir would  deliver three no-balls at specific points during the Lord’s  test. The no-balls were bowled as promised, with the  probability of someone predicting this by chance estimated  by a cricket statistician as 1.5 million to one.
Butt and Asif denied any involvement in the plot but were  convicted of conspiracy to cheat, the Press Association  reported. The jurors also found Butt guilty of conspiracy to  accept corrupt payments but have not yet reached a verdict on  whether Asif was guilty of the same charge.
Butt, who was appointed Pakistan’s captain during last  year’s tour of England, told the court the agent asked him to  rig parts of crunch games at the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup and  last summer’s test series, but he had ignored the requests.
Butt, who made his test debut for Pakistan in 2003 and has  played 33 test matches and 78 one-day internationals, admitted  he did not fulfil his duty to inform the cricketing authorities  about the corrupt approach.
The guilty verdicts came on the day Butt’s wife Gul gave  birth to their second son in Lahore.
“It is a day of sadness and happiness for us,” Butt’s father  Zulfiqar Butt told Reuters.
“We are shocked by this verdict and will fight to the end.  But at the same time God has given us a new life.”
Asif was first selected for Pakistan in 2005 and has  represented his country in 23 tests and 38 one-day  internationals.
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