Prosecutors re-think Pakistan players’ convictions after ‘Fake Sheikh’ evidence: report


LONDON: Prosecutors are re-examining the criminal convictions of three Pakistan players jailed in 2011 over spot-fixing allegations, according to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The Guardian said the convictions in a London court of then Pakistan captain Salman Butt, paceman Mohammad Asif and swing bowler Mohammad Aamer, were among 25 cases called into question by the methods of ‘Fake Sheikh’ undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood.

Prosecutors dropped on Wednesday a case of alleged match-fixing involving 13 footballers in England because of doubts about the reliability of Mahmood’s evidence.

After the now defunct News of the World revealed the three Pakistan cricketers had conspired to bowl no-balls during a Test match at Lord’s in 2010 in return for a share of £150,000 ($228,207), the trio and their agent Mazher Majeed were arrested.

Following the ‘sting’ operation, the three players were banned for a minimum of five years each by the International Cricket Council.

At a subsequent separate court hearing in London, they were all given prison sentences.

Aamer’s ICC ban is set to expire in August and he could return to international cricket soon afterwards.

The case made headlines around the world, appearing to shed light on the contentious issue of illegal and unregulated betting markets in Asia and the Far East.

However, there were those who regarded the jail terms as severe given it appeared no actual bet had been placed.

Betting expert Ed Hawkins, the author of ‘Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld’, was among those to say no Asian syndicate would ever accept a wager on when a specific no-ball would be bowled because it was too easy to manipulate the outcome.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced this week there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” in the footballers’ case following the collapse of pop singer Tulisa Contostavlos’s trial.

She was cleared of helping arrange a cocaine deal in July last year after a newspaper sting led by Mahmood, famed for going undercover in traditional Arab dress, hence his ‘Fake Sheikh’ nickname.

Judge Alistair McCreath said there were “strong grounds” to believe Mahmood, a reporter with The Sun On Sunday tabloid, had lied in the witness box.

Last month, the CPS said it was re-examining criminal convictions in 25 cases where evidence was given by Mahmood after several trials were halted.

Mahmood was suspended by the Sun on Sunday, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK British newspaper arm, in July after the collapse of Contostavlos’s trial.

He had previously worked for Murdoch’s News of the World before it was shut down as a result of the phone hacking scandal. –  AFP