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Sunday, 5 September 2010

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British police quiz Pakistan trio in probe

CRICKET: LONDON, Sept 4 (AFP) - British police on Friday questioned the three Pakistani cricketers embroiled in fixing claims, as the sport’s governing body insisted the case was not the tip of a corruption iceberg in the game.

Bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif and Test captain Salman Butt were all released without charge after voluntarily appearing at a police station near the “home of cricket”, Lord’s in north London, their lawyer said.

“At no time were they placed under arrest, they were free to leave at any time and they have answered all of the questions that were put to them and have been released without charge or conditions,” lawyer Elizabeth Robertson said.

Aamer — at 18 one of the game’s hottest talents — Asif, 27, and Butt, 25, did not speak to the media when they appeared at Kilburn police station separately throughout the day.

The International Cricket Council said meanwhile it had acted as soon as it could to charge the trio with “various offences” under its anti-corruption code and to suspend them pending a decision on those charges.

“The conclusion that we have come to is that there is a really arguable case to answer,” Ronnie Flanagan, chairman of the ICC’s Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, told a press conference at the Lord’s ground.

But he insisted: “I do not see this as tip of an iceberg. It’s not a contagion widespread throughout cricket.”

Charges relate to 4th Test

The charges all relate to the fourth and final Test between England and Pakistan at Lord’s, which finished with an England win on Sunday, in which a tabloid newspaper said deliberate no-balls had been bowled.

Flanagan said the players had been charged under Article 2 of the ICC code, which relates to offences including corruption, betting and misuse of inside information, but declined to go into details.

Calling it a complex investigation, he said that if the players were found guilty they could face a life ban.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said the case could be the worst example of corruption in cricket since former South Africa captain Hansie Cronje was revealed to have accepted money from bookmakers in a bid to influence games, as well as trying to entice his team-mates to do the same, a decade ago.

Cronje died in a plane crash in 2002.

The sanctions have infuriated the Pakistani authorities, but Lorgat said there was “no truth that there is a conspiracy against Pakistani cricket”.

The South African expressed his “extreme disappointment and sadness” at the situation, however, and repeated that “we will not tolerate any sort of corruption in the sport.”

Pakistani High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan said Friday the ICC was wrong to suspend them while the police investigation was ongoing. He has previously suggested the trio might have been set up.

“I met the cricketers for two hours, cross-questioned them, got to the bottom of it and concluded that they were innocent,” Hasan told BBC radio.

“The ICC had no business to take this action. The ICC is just playing to the public gallery.”

Indian bookmakers had part to play

Hasan suggested that Indian bookmakers had a part to play in the affair.

But former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal said the high commissioner’s comments may have been wide of the mark.

“I thought the cause would have been better served had the chairman of the board or the lawyer of the PCB came and faced the media,” Iqbal told the BBC.

The three now suspended players withdrew Thursday from Pakistan’s tour of England, with Hasan citing “mental torture”, and missed Pakistan’s eight-run win over county side Somerset the same day.

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said he was “not happy” about the situation but was trying to focus on his duties ahead of the forthcoming two Twenty20 internationals and five one-day games against England.

Pakistan later announced they had added Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Irfan to their squad.

The accused players have 14 days to request a tribunal hearing at which they can challenge the charges.

 

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