On the fifth morning of the alleged spot-fixing trial involving former Pakistan captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif, the jury was played recordings captured by undercover journalist and the prosecution’s key witness Mazhar Mahmood, who stood behind a screen in the witness box at Southwark Crown Court.
It was Mahmood’s covert sting operation, while working then for the News of the World, which that sparked one of cricket’s biggest controversies. Butt and Asif are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following that Lord’s Test in August last year when they allegedly conspired with agent Mazhar Majeed, teenage fast bowler Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-determined no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.
One of the recordings related to the match at The Oval and was actually taken before the fourth day of that match started, when England were 221 for 9 overnight in their second innings. On that Saturday morning they subsequently lost their tenth wicket and Pakistan went on to reach their target of 148 with six wickets down to secure victory.
But that result might have been different had Majeed taken up the huge offer from his unnamed contact in India. The undercover journalist was sitting in the lounge of Majeed’s luxurious house in Croydon, while watching footage of Pakistan matches, Majeed was explaining how ‘brackets’ – a fixed segment in a match – work. Then Majeed called a number in India.
The conversation proceeded as follows, according to the transcript that was played to the court from an audio visual recording:
(Majeed): “Boss, you know what we spoke about last night, what offer can you give me for today’s game? Tell me, just give me a figure now, we haven’t got long.
(an Asian male) “For the game?
(Majeed) “Yeah exactly.
(Asian) “If you tell me what you want.
(Majeed) “Okay there’s a possibility, I’m just telling you now yeah?
(Majeed) “But they’re talking, they’re talking at least 1.2, at least.
(Asian) “1.2, that’s 1.2 dollars.
(Majeed) “In dollars yeah.
(Majeed) “Boss you know how many we’ve got, you know that they do it, so of course that’s not a problem. But you just give me the figure and I’m gonna get back to you. Then I, we haven’t got much time.
(Asian) “I give you one.
(Majeed) “One million yeah?
(Asian) “One, one I give you, but has to be a definite game score.
(Majeed) “Okay, okay fine, okay boss I’ll call you back. Let me get, give me ten minutes and I’ll call you back?
(Asian) “Okay, okay.”
After the phone rings off, Majeed said to the undercover journalist: “See what I mean?” He added: “There’s big, big money in results boss I tell you. You can see that.”
The journalist went on to quiz Majeed at how he would collect his million dollars, to which Majeed explained that he would be given the money in cash from Pakistan, and “some in Dubai”…”some in England”.
Journalist Mahmood asked Majeed how he moved the money for the players and he said, ‘the only reason I bought the football club (Croydon Athletic) was to move the money’. Majeed had earlier boasted in that conversation, relating to general fixing, that “the three boys who are very, very clever at this (were)…Salman (Butt), Kamran (Akmal) and xxx (a name that was blanked out from transcript).”
Majeed added, when the journalist pointed at the replays on television, that they were investigated for the defeats in Australia in 2010: “Boss they get bloody investigated, they have been talking about investigating the players for the last 50 years.”
Within the recording played to the court, Mahmood urged Majeed to phone Kamran Akmal, though why he was calling him was not made clear from the transcript. Majeed did, though, call Akmal first on his mobile, getting his voicemail and then tried him unsuccessfully at the team hotel room at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.