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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Match-fixing claims 'baseless': Cricket Australia


Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland on Tuesday said allegations made in a London court implicating Australian players in match-fixing were baseless claims made by a person of "dubious repute".

The details emerged as Mazher Mahmood, the former investigations editor for Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World, gave evidence at the trial of ex-Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif.

In recordings played to Southwark Crown Court, an agent, Mazhar Majeed, alleged that Australians, as well as some of the biggest names in Pakistani cricket, were prepared to fix parts of matches.

Sutherland said he had serious doubts over Majeed's integrity.

"These comments or allegations would appear to be outlandish and were made by a person of dubious repute," he said at a press conference. "These would appear to be baseless allegations."

During the trial, a video secretly filmed in a car was played showing the agent and Mahmood -- posing as an Indian frontman for a gambling syndicate -- meeting during the first day of Pakistan's Test against England on August 18 last year.

In it, Majeed said he would give the journalist proof of his influence by arranging for two no-balls to be bowled, for a fee of £10,000 each, then said a "deposit" of £150,000 was required for further activity.

Prosecutors allege Butt and Asif agreed for no-balls to be bowled as part of a spot-fixing scam. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, and conspiracy to cheat at gambling.

Majeed also alleged that Australian players would fix "brackets", a set period of a match on which punters bet.

"The Australians, they are the biggest. They have 10 brackets a game," he claimed.

Arranging a "bracket" could cost between £50,000 and £80,000, he said.

"For a result, Twenty20 is about £400,000 and Test matches, depending on the situation, is about £1 million," he added.

Sutherland said Australian players had been "unfairly maligned" by the claims.

"I think the sweeping statement unfairly maligns Australian cricketers," he said, adding that Cricket Australia had long taken an emphatic stand against corruption.

"CA has a very strong view about corruption and that is that there is no place for it in our sport," he said.
The CA boss added that he would contact the International Cricket Council (ICC) about the allegations and would investigate if there was "one skerrick of credible evidence".
But he said so far he was aware of none.

"The ICC attend every single international cricket match with their corruption unit and there is nothing I have heard to suggest that there are Australian players who are of interest to them," Sutherland said.

"If there is any issue or there is any concern, we will investigate them.

"If we charge players and we find them guilty we will have no qualms about issuing a life sentence on players who are found guilty of match-fixing."

"But in my dealings with the ICC I'm very confident that I would know and understand if there were concerns about Australian players. I have heard none of that."

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