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Sport-fixing trial: Butt, Asif found guilty; sentencing later

London: Pakistan cricket was today drowned in deep shame with two of its cricketers–former Test captain Salman Butt and pacer Mohammad Asif–found guilty in the spot-fixing scam by a jury at the Southwark Crown Court here.

The 12-man jury found Butt, 27, guilty of conspiracy to accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat, while Asif, 28, was convicted of the charge of conspiracy to cheat in one of the biggest scandals that rocked cricket last year.

The decision came on the 20th day of the trial and after 16 hours of deliberation by the jury. But they will remain out on bail till the quantum of their punishment is decided by the jury in a couple of days.

Today’s developments cap a series of controversies that have haunted Pakistan cricket, including match-fixing allegations against them in the 2000 scandal.

The third accused, 19-year-old pacer Mohammad Aamir, who was also involved in the conspiracy, did not face trial as he had pleaded guilty.

Butt faces upto seven years in prison for his role in the scandal which broke out after a sting by the now-defunct tabloid ‘News of the World’ revealed that the duo had conspired with alleged bookie Mazhar Majeed to send down deliberate no balls during the Lord’s Test against England.

Today’s verdicts are on three of the four charges as on the fourth accusation of Asif’s acceptance of corrupt payments, the jury returned a hung verdict. The judge has asked the jury to go back into deliberation to decide on the fourth charge.

Butt and Asif, along with Majeed, were put on trial here after a police raid on their hotel rooms following the sting operation last year led to recovery of cash, which was allegedly paid by the bookmaker.

Butt was banned for 10 years, five of which were suspended, Asif for seven years, while Aamir was suspended for five years by the International Cricket Council in earlier disciplinary action against the trio.

The scandal goes back to August last year when the duo conspired with Majeed and Aamir to deliver three no-balls during the Lord’s Test.

Butt and Asif had pleaded not guilty to the charges and the duo sat quietly in the dock when the verdicts were delivered. The judge had said that he was prepared to accept a 10-2 majority verdict in the case.

During the trial, the jury heard from Mazher Mahmood, the News of the World’s former investigations editor, that he had approached Majeed disguising himself as an Indian businessman.

Majeed, in the course of the sting operation, had claimed that he had six Pakistani players working for him and it would cost just over USD one million to fix a “bracket”–a particular phase of the match.

When confronted with the tapes, Butt had claimed that he ignored Majeed, who was his agent in London, for making such suggestions.

Asif, on the other hand, had suggested that Butt had to have been involved with alleged fix to bowl no balls but stopped short of a definitive causation.

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