Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield jailed: Kaneria implicated in English spot-fixing case
LONDON, Feb 17: Another case of corruption surfaced in Pakistan cricket on Friday as Test leg-spinner Danish Kaneria was named in a London court as being involved in a spot-fixing scam that led to the imprisonment of a former English county cricketer.
Prosecutors in the case of former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield, who was sentenced to four months in jail on Friday, said the player had been lured into the fix after an approach by Kaneria.
The Old Bailey here heard that Kaneria told Westfield he would be paid to concede a certain number of runs in a particular over.
Prosecutor Nigel Peters QC said the deal emerged after another Essex player, Tony Palladino, showed Westfield “the most money he had ever seen”.
Kaneria was arrested in connection with the case in 2010 but later released without charge.
Westfield had admitted receiving £6,000 ($9,200) to bowl so that 12 runs would be scored in the first over of a 40-over match between Durham and Essex in September 2009, although in fact only 10 were scored.
“For financial gain, you [Westfield] betrayed the trust placed in you to play honestly and to the best of your ability,” judge Anthony Morris said at the Old Bailey. “If, because of corrupt payments, it cannot be guaranteed that every player will play to the best of his ability, the reality is that the enjoyment of many millions of people around the world who watch cricket, whether on television or at cricket grounds, will be destroyed.”
Morris said that “no legal domestic betting market appears to have been compromised by your corrupt agreement.”
“The inescapable inference is that the person who made the corrupt payment must have taken advantage of this information by seeking to influence a legal overseas market or an illegal market in this country or overseas,” he added.
International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat welcomed Westfield’s jail sentence.
“While the ICC takes no pleasure from anyone being sent to jail, it is a decision of the court which we support and I believe would act as a deterrent to anyone who is tempted to sully the good name of cricket,” Lorgat said.
The case took place against the backdrop of three Pakistan players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir — being jailed in Britain last year for their role in a separate spot-fixing scandal in a 2010 Test match against England at Lord’s.
Westfield’s defence team had told the Old Bailey before sentencing that Essex team-mate Kaneria pressured him into taking the corrupt payment.
“Kaneria and his associates targeted Westfield,” Westfield’s lawyer Mark Milliken-Smith said. “Westfield was on the verge of the squad, more susceptible for that reason. Less likely perhaps to be able to say no to the club’s international star, his future with the club uncertain.”
The court was told that other Essex players heard Kaneria mentioning spot-fixing but dismissed what he was saying as “banter”.
“There’s ways of making money, you don’t have to lose a game,” former Essex batsman Varun Chopra recalled Kaneria telling
him in an August 2009 phone call.
Meanwhile, Kaneria’s lawyer Farogh Naseem brushed aside Westfield’s claims.
“I think we can only take any step once the inquiry is finished,” Naseem told AFP in Karachi. “It is Westfield’s words against Kaneria and a lot will depend on what evidences he puts before the court against my client.”Naseem reiterated that Kaneria had
been cleared by the police.
“At the time of the police inquiry, Kaneria was not charged and cleared. The ICC cleared him so we feel that Kaneria was discharged in the case,” he said.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) withdrew Kaneria after he was selected for the series against South Africa in October 2010 and has since not cleared him for selection, apparently waiting for the Westfield inquiry to be completed.
Kaneria’s petition against the PCB to revive his career was dismissed by the Sindh High court in November last year and despite vowing to take the case to higher courts, Kaneria has not made any progress.
Kaneria was allowed to play domestic cricket, however, and has represented Sindh in the ongoing Pentangular Cup in Pakistan.
“The PCB will wait for the final judgement in Westfield’s case,” PCB lawyer Tafazzul Rizvi stated. “If some solid evidences are brought before the PCB, only then will we take action. At the moment there is a status quo in Kaneria’s case.
“Kaneria was not cleared by the integrity committee, which is required for every player to represent Pakistan.”
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, meanwhile, said he was saddened by Kaneria’s implication in the case.
“This is really very disappointing for Pakistan cricket,” said Misbah in Dubai, on the eve of the third ODI against England
on Saturday. “I wish that by the Almighty’s grace such things will vanish from our cricket.”—Agencies