Court hears how the plan unfolded


The Southwark Crown Court heard on Monday a recording of how the alleged Pakistan spot-fixing controversy was spawned – from an initial conversation about setting up a Twenty20 event to a murkier debate about fixing and how Pakistan players made significant amounts of money from the corrupt practice.
The latest development unravelled as former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif sat in the dock at the Court, on the fourth day of their trial as they defend themselves against charges of bowling pre-determined no-balls in the Lord’s Test against England last year. They deny the charges. The court had already heard the initial opening from prosecution witness Mazhar Mahmood, the investigative journalist who lured agent Mazhar Majeed in a sting operation. What came next was another recorded conversation that saw their business drift from potential innocent opportunism to alleged corruption.
The jury heard an audio recording of the two cricketers’ agent Mazhar Majeed talking to the reporter during a secretly recorded conversation in a car, and outlining the prices for different forms of fixing.
“There is massive, massive money in this,” Majeed was heard to say in the recording played to the Court. Majeed said that for a “bracket” — where bets are made on incidents during a certain period of play — the cost could be between £50,000 and £80,000 ($78,000 and $125,000).
“For a result, Twenty20 is about £400,000 and Test matches, depending on the situation, is about £1 million.” He said that he was dealing with a contact in India, adding: “Indian bookmakers, think of how many millions are bet on these games.”
Mahmood had first gained Majeed’s trust by discussing the possibility of using Majeed’s Pakistani player clients in a Twenty20 event to be staged in Abu Dhabi. But then, after a second meeting at the Bombay Brasserie restaurant in London, the two went outside to Mahmood’s car and it was there that the journalist dropped his cover story and brought up the subject of fixing, saying that is what his Far East bosses are really interested in. Majeed was not spooked by the change of topic, quite the opposite. “Yes there’s big money in this thing,” he was heard boasting on the recording in court. “(But) they have made it very, very difficult in many ways (to fix now).
He added: “I have been doing it with them (the Pakistan players he claims to control)…for about two and a half years and we’ve made masses and masses of money.” He went on to describe how he deals with an illegal Indian bookmaking cartel because they pay more for the information, and added how he and the players fix “brackets” of matches, or small periods within a match. He told of how they might fix the amount of runs scored within a ten over period.
“If we have scored 13 off three overs then the market will be expecting high scoring so the boys will then slow the scoring down and might score just 14 or less off the next seven overs,” Majeed was heard to say on the tape. He also told of how bowler Mohammad Asif would signal the start of a bracket by running in to bowl and then stopping short so the umpire would rule a dead ball. The case continues.
The British sports agent representing Asif and Butt accused of a betting scam told the journalist that Test matches could be thrown for £1 million, a court in London heard Monday. Mahmood gave evidence behind a screen after the judge made an order banning publication of descriptions of his appearance or sketches because the journalist has argued his security could be compromised. Butt and Asif plead not guilty to charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling.
Prosecutors said at the opening of the trial last week that the pair had agreed to bowl no-balls as part of a spot-fixing scam.
Majeed talked of Pakistan T20 league: The agent at the centre of the spot-fixing allegations tried to impress an undercover journalist, posing as an Indian businessman, with a series of boasts that included a meeting with PCB chairman Ijaz Butt about setting up a domestic Twenty20 tournament, a court in London has heard. Agent Mazhar Majeed also told journalist Mazhar Mahmood that he knew actor Brad Pitt “very well”, tennis legend Roger Federer and was good friends with former England cricketers Mike Gatting, Phil Tufnell, Geoffrey Boycott, ex-Pakistan skipper Imran Khan and former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi among others.
He also bragged how he managed ten Pakistan players including Salman Butt, Kamran and Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik, and had access to other world stars like Chris Gayle, Brett Lee, Ricky Ponting, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. A potential meeting with their mutual contact – former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf – was also referred to.
The name-dropping and boasting from Majeed was heard in a recording while Mahmood was in the witness box at the Court on the fourth day of the trial.
The jury also had a written transcript of the recording to follow. It was taken from the first meeting between the two men, when Mahmood had secret microphones on him that preceded an eventual global controversy after Mahmood exposed his trap. The journalist took his position in court behind a screen to hide his identity to the public and media. Mahmood lured Majeed to the meeting posing as an Indian businessman from “Tata Equity” with the promise of setting up a Twenty20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates, which would be sponsored by Etihad Airlines.
The boasting raised smiles of disbelief in the court as Majeed was heard to also own seven ice cream parlours – which he has Pakistan players appear at for free, “the biggest property company in Surrey”, football club Croydon, and told of how he lived at different times in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Malaysia and Turkey as he studied religion and gave lectures.
The court heard Majeed explain why he did not wish to manage former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi. Incredibly he also revealed how he regrettably turned down the chance of involvement in the hit movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Majeed, who said he worked very closely with the PCB, said of the meeting with Butt: “I had a meeting with Ijaz Butt about doing a domestic tournament. What we were going to do was look at putting a sponsor with each region and do a Twenty20 league because Pakistani people are not getting any cricket to watch. They will come in droves.”
In-court sketches and visible descriptions of Mahmood were not allowed to be published. His evidence is key to the prosecution and his appearance in court is expected to run into a second day. In his sting operation, Mahmood said he was backed by a Far East betting cartel, and eventually lured Majeed into revealing a corrupt plot during Pakistan’s 2010 tour of England.