Agent Majeed gets 2 years and 8 months prison term

Three top Pakistani cricketers, the former cricket captain, Salman Butt; and “star” fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were on Thursday jailed for their role in “spot-fixing” during a Test match against England at the Lord's last summer.

“What a shame, I grew up worshipping them as my heroes,” sighed a young bystander as they were driven to the cells in the back of a police van after being handed down their sentences at London's Southwark Crown Court.

Butt (27) was jailed for two years and six months; Asif (28) for one year; and Mohammad Amir (19) for six months.

Amir, who was 18 at the time of the offence and had pleaded guilty before the trial, was sent to a young offenders' institution while his lawyers applied for bail.

The three were also ordered to pay compensation towards prosecution costs — Butt £30,937, Asif £8,120 and Amir £9,389.

Mazhar Majeed, their London-based agent and ringmaster, who claimed he paid them money to deliberately bowl no-balls at pre-determined intervals as part of an international betting scam, was sentenced to two years and eight months imprisonment.

Cricket “tainted”

Judge Jeremy Clarke told them that they had damaged the integrity of the great game of cricket and “tainted'' it forever. What they had done was “not cricket.”

“The image and integrity of what was once a game but is now a business is damaged in the eyes of all, including the many youngsters who regarded you as heroes and would have given their eye, teeth to play at the levels and with the skills that you had,” he said.

In the end, however, they got away lightly. The maximum sentence for the charges on which they were found guilty — conspiracy to accept corrupt payments — is seven years. They will serve only half their sentences if their behaviour is found good.

As the three were led away, Asif nodded to someone in the public gallery. The other two showed no emotion.

In a statement read to the court, Amir apologised and said he was put under pressure to cheat.

Besides the international media, a large crowd gathered outside the court to watch the last sordid act of the year-long saga that saw some of the biggest names in Pakistan cricket dragged into controversy. During the trial, there were also references to an unnamed “Indian contact” who wanted to invest money in the betting scam.

Sting operation

The case arose out of a sting operation by the now-defunct News of the World purporting to show that the three cricketers took money from Majeed to deliberately bowl no-balls.

The secretly-filmed footage showed Majeed accepting ? 1,50,000 from an undercover reporter. He promised that next day that Asif and Amir would deliver three no-balls at specific intervals which they did.

Butt's role allegedly was to make sure that his bowlers bowled the three no-balls.

Butt would appeal, his lawyer said.

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