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UK betting scam: Alleged fixer Mazhar Majeed out on bail

The man at the centre of an alleged betting scam involving the Pakistan cricket team was out on bail on Monday as police, governments and authorities probed the scandal rocking the sport. Sin at cricket’s Mecca? | Exposed | Hall of Shame

cricket Updated: Aug 30, 2010 09:36 IST

The man at the centre of an alleged betting scam involving the Pakistan cricket team was out on bail on Monday as police, governments and authorities probed the scandal rocking the sport.

Mazhar Majeed, 35, was released from custody having been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers, following a newspaper's claim that he took money in return for exact details on no-balls in the Lord's Test match between England and Pakistan.

The allegations have caused uproar in Pakistan and shaken a sport that prides itself on being considered synonymous with fair play.

British police bailed Majeed without charge late Sunday. "A 35-year-old man has been bailed until a date in the future," a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

He said the police would not be discussing the date or his bail conditions. Scotland Yard detectives have also grilled Pakistan captain Salman Butt and two of their star strike bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif in their investigation.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the claims "have bowed our heads in shame", as he launched an investigation.

The News of the World newspaper said it paid Majeed 150,000 pounds (230,000 dollars, 185,000 euros) in return for advance details about the timing of three no-balls in the fourth and final Test, which England won on Sunday to take the series 3-1.

The report said Aamer and Asif delivered blatant no-balls at the exact points in the match indicated by the alleged middleman.

Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said detectives had on Saturday visited the team's hotel, where Butt and the bowlers had been interviewed about the allegations.

All three gave statements to the police, who took away their mobile phones. Scotland Yard said they could not discuss persons interviewed as part of an inquiry.

The News of the World published a photograph, video and audio of its encounters with Majeed. He was pictured counting wads of banknotes given to him by a reporter posing as a front man for a betting syndicate.

The Lord's Test was played to a finish Sunday, but unusually, the post-match presentation ceremony did not take place on the outfield but was moved inside the pavilion.

During the ceremony, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Giles Clarke refused to shake Aamer's hand when presenting the player with the Pakistan Man of the Series award and a cheque for 4,000 pounds.

Despite the allegations, Saeed denied that Pakistani cricket was "institutionally corrupt". "I would not like to say that," he said. "Yes, one has heard and one has read (allegations), but I would not like to go that far."

A defiant Butt insisted he would not resign the Test team captaincy over the claims. "Anybody can stand out and say anything about you, that doesn't make them true," he said.

In Pakistan, Gilani said a probe was under way. "The latest fixing allegations have bowed our heads in shame," the prime minister told reporters in his home town of Multan.

"I have ordered a thorough inquiry into these allegations so that action could be taken against those who are proven guilty."

President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his disappointment at the claims and is being informed of developments. The country's federal sports minister Ijaz Jakhrani promised that any players found guilty would be severely punished.

If wrongdoing was proven, "all the players involved must forget to play for Pakistan in future," he said. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said they had requested access to the ongoing investigation.

The no-balls at the centre of the claims were bowled on Thursday and Friday. Pakistan's players now face an awkward time as they must remain in England for a series of one-day matches.

"As far as I am concerned the one-day series is on," Saeed said. Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan said cricket in Pakistan must not be allowed to be dragged down by corrupt players.

"Why should Pakistan cricket suffer if some players have indulged in a crime?" he told Britain's ITV television. "The people who are found guilty should be removed from the team and replaced and should be punished as an example."

Ramiz Raja, the former Pakistan captain and later PCB chief executive, wrote in The Daily Telegraph newspaper Monday: "It is a disaster for cricket... those players must now be dealt with severely. "For them to do it at Lord's, the Mecca of cricket, brings extreme shame and sadness."

The latest allegations are a further blow to cricket in Pakistan, already at a low ebb with home matches ruled out due to terrorism fears.

The team has been dogged by "fixing" allegations since the 1990s and also embroiled in ball-tampering.

First Published: Aug 30, 2010 08:49 IST