Pak trio Charged

London, Feb. 4: Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir will face criminal charges in Britain over allegations they conspired with bookmakers to fix a match last year against England.

The trio have protested their innocence to the International Cricket Council but Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said on Friday that they and their agent have been summoned on charges of conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments and conspiracy to cheat.

The players have been suspended from all cricket since September 3 after a British tabloid alleged they bowled no-balls at prearranged times during August’s fourth test at Lord’s to fix spot betting markets. CPS head Simon Clements said the organization, which was responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by British police, believed it had enough proof to convict the players. “We are satisfied there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute,” Clements said. “The International Cricket Council tribunal is due to announce its decision tomorrow, but criminal proceedings are active now.”

Clements said the CPS will apply for extradition orders against Butt, Asif and Amir - the latter of whom has apologized for bowling five overs in a friendly last week — if they do not return to Britain next month.

Majeed is due to appear for an initial hearing at London's City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on March 17. “I would remind everyone that these men are entitled to a fair trial and should be regarded as innocent of these charges unless it is proven otherwise in court,” said Clements, whose organization received a file of evidence from Metropolitan Police on Dec. 7.

“It is extremely important that nothing should be reported which could prejudice the trial.” An ICC anti-corruption tribunal, which questioned the players for more than 45 hours in Doha last month, is expected to deliver its own verdict on the players’ cricket future on Saturday in the sport’s biggest fixing scandal of the past decade.

The PCB says it might consider the three players for the World Cup if they are exonerated. Amir’s lawyer Shahid Karim hopes for a positive judgment for his 18-year-old client, who troubled England and Australia batsmen during the English summer until the scandal broke following an investigation by The News of the World. But former players and fans believe the trio might not be able to return to cricket, at least in the near future. “I think Butt would get the maximum punishment,” former test fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz said.

On the request of the ICC, Pakistan one-day captain Shahid Afridi, coach Waqar Younis and former security manager Kahwaja Najam Javed also recorded statements at the Doha hearing.

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