Pakistan’s cricketers Butt, Asif, Amir jailed for spot-fixing

LONDON, (Reuters) – Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt,  Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed today for  their roles in a spot-fixing scandal which the judge said had  damaged the integrity of a game renowned for its fairness.
Former captain Butt was sentenced to 30 months, while Asif  was given one year and fellow pace bowler Amir six months as the  sporting world was given a strong message that corruption would  be punished by much more than fines and suspensions.
The trio were part of a gambling-inspired plot to bowl  no-balls at pre-arranged times during a test match against  England at London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground in August 2010.
“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 you as heroes and would have given their  eye teeth to play at the levels and with the skills that you  had,” judge Jeremy Cooke told the courtroom.
“Now, whenever people look back on a surprising event in a  game or a surprising result, or whenever in the future there are  surprising events or results, followers of the game who have  paid good money to watch it … will be left to wonder whether  there has been fixing and whether what they have been watching  is a genuine contest between bat and ball.”
Sports agent Mazhar Majeed, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy  to cheat and conspiracy to making corrupt payments at a  pre-trial hearing, was jailed for two years and eight months at  London’s Southwark Crown Court.
Majeed, who implicated another unnamed Pakistan player in  court, was trapped in a sting by former UK newspaper the News Of  the World which broke the spot-fixing story.

‘SHAMEFUL DAY’
The cricketers, already banned from playing by the  International Cricket Council for a minimum of five years,  showed no reaction as the sentences were handed out amid strong  words from the judge who said they had tainted a game known for  its fairness.
“‘It’s not cricket’ was an adage,” Cooke said.
“It is the insidious effect of your actions on professional  cricket and the followers of it that make the offences so  serious.”
The age-old sport of cricket has much stricter rules than  many other team pursuits with a shake of a head at an umpire’s  decision often warranting a fine for ungentlemanly conduct.
Butt, 27, and Asif, 28, were found guilty on Tuesday of  taking bribes while 19-year-old Amir admitted his part in the  scam before the trial started and had also offered a heartfelt  apology during the sentence hearing.
The case has prompted calls back home in Pakistan for the  game to be radically cleaned up.
While Butt’s father Zulfiqar said his son — who faces a  long wait to meet the baby his wife gave birth to earlier this  week — had been made a scapegoat, others said the players had  deserved their punishments.
“These convictions will hopefully serve as a deterrent to  others in the future because cricket should not be allowed to be  corrupted by anyone,” former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif told  Reuters.
Some thought the sanctions had not been harsh enough with  corruption suspected in Pakistani cricket for years.
“They should have been given a stricter punishment. These  people should be made an example for others. I think the  punishment they got was much less then what they deserve,” said  Noman Saeed, a telecoms official in Karachi and a cricket fan.
“Now that they have been proven guilty, there should be no  sympathy for them. And now a proper investigation should be  launched and others involved should also be apprehended.”
Butt, Asif and Majeed are expected to begin their sentences  at Wandsworth prison in south London, while Amir is due to be  sent to a young offenders’ institute in west London.
Lawyers for Butt and Amir have said they will be appealing  the sentences.
Pakistan cricket was already suffering from the team having  to play home matches away from the country because of security  concerns there. The team are this week playing Sri Lanka in a  “home” test in the United Arab Emirates.

DRAFT LAWS
The Pakistan cricket board (PCB) distanced itself from the  convicted players, saying the trio had let the country down.
“It is a sad day for Pakistan cricket that these players  instead of having pride in playing for their country chose to  disappoint their supporters and let their nation down,” PCB  official Nadeem Sarwar said.
The PCB also reiterated its support for all anti-corruption  measures taken by the International Cricket Council and member  boards and said it would be recommending to the government to  draft laws against corruption and fixing in cricket.
Fighting corruption in sport has become one of the  International Olympic Committee’s main goals.
The world’s most popular sport, soccer, has been besieged by  corruption allegations in the past year and now cricket is  fighting to maintain its integrity.
Corruption in cricket famously hit the headlines in South  Africa when former captain Hansie Cronje received a lifetime ban  from the game in 2000 for his part in match-rigging.
“The reality is that, maybe 10 years from now, we might  still be talking about the same issue,” South Africa team  manager Mohammed Moosajee told a news conference in  Johannesburg.
“Greed and corruption is a reality of the modern world that  we live in. For us it is about minimising the risks and exposure  to players.”

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