London, Oct 15: Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt insisted that he never asked bowlers Mohammad Asif or Mohammad Aamer to cheat during a Test match against England last year, a British court heard on Friday during a trial for alleged spot-fixing.
Butt and Asif, who arrived two hours late for court due to illness, are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat, and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments, following the match in August 2010 when they allegedly conspired with agent Mazhar Majeed, teenage fast bowler Aamer and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls. Butt and Asif deny the charges.
The jury at London's Southwark Crown Court heard a transcript from police interviews with Butt in September last year, just after an undercover investigation into alleged corruption by the Pakistan cricketers and Majeed that was published in the now defunct British tabloid, the News of the World.
"There's no way I could tell Aamer or Asif (to cheat)," the court heard Butt saying in the police interview.
"They are the two players that most teams would want to have. When we pick our team those are the first two names that we have to write."
In the first police interview, in which Butt described Majeed's subsequently accurate predictions of the three no-balls as "a freak occurrence", he said he never took money corruptly and insisted his former agent Majeed had no influence over him, contrary to what Majeed said on the News of the World's secret tapes.
"I don't think anybody could influence me to cheat my country," Butt said. "I play this game for the love of the game and for the love of my country.
"I have played at all levels for Pakistan and in ten years of playing for Pakistan I have never had any charge against me," he added. "This is the first time I have had a charge (against me)," before denying any knowledge of cheating in the Pakistan team.
When Asif's initial police interview was played to the court he too denied any wrongdoing and insisted that nobody had pressured him into doing something corrupt and said he was "not protecting" Butt.
"No I'm going to protect myself," Asif said on the recording played to the jury. "How can I protect Salman Butt? Even in the game and in my life I am going to protect myself."
He added: "(There's) no pressure, how can he (Butt) put pressure on me? How can he pressurize me? Nobody can pressurize me as I have played in the (Pakistan) team for a long time."
Detective Constable Steven Blake later took the witness stand and volunteered in-depth details to the court of Majeed's finances, when probed first by the prosecution and then Butt's lawyer Ali Bajwa QC.
Bajwa highlighted the complex details told to the court of more than 30 bank accounts in Majeed's name. He said that Majeed had bank overdrafts worth around 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million). One of his 21 accounts with the NatWest Bank, the court heard, was 497,949 pounds overdrawn.
Further, of the 150,000 pounds cash that the undercover News of the World journalist paid Majeed to set up the sting, 104,300 pounds is yet to be recovered.