London's tabloid The News of the World has claimed to have smashed a multi-million pound cricket match-fixing ring which rigged the current Lord's Test between England and Pakistan, its reporters Mazher Mahmood and Amanda Evans were part of the sting.
In the most sensational sporting scandal ever, bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif delivered THREE blatant no-balls to order.
Their London-based fixer Mazhar Majeed, who let the NOTW team in on the betting scam for £150,000, crowed "this is no coincidence" before the bent duo made duff deliveries at PRECISELY the moments promised to our reporter. Armed with the damning dossier of video evidence, NOTW went to Scotland Yard, who launched their own probe into the scandal.
Millions around the world watched Pakistan star bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif deliver three no-balls in the Test against England on Thursday and Friday at the historic home of cricket, Lord's in London. Unsuspecting fans packed the ground on Saturday to watch Pakistan collapse as they were bowled out for 74 in their first innings and forced to follow on.
Fixer Majeed beckons to NOTW man to begin the £150,000 handover But on Sunday the shock footage of the players' fixer Mazhar Majeed taking a massive £150,000 cash, and telling NOTW EXACTLY when the no-balls would come, proves the game was RIGGED.
Having already trousered a £10,000 upfront deposit - which he insisted had gone to the stars - Majeed sat in NOTW's west London hotel room at the Copthorne Tara on Wednesday night and eagerly counted out the £140,000 balance in bundles of crisp £50 notes - our "entry ticket" into his already successful betting scam.
NOTW undercover team was posing as front men for a Far East gambling cartel. In return for their suitcase of money Majeed then calmly detailed what would happen - and when - on the field of play next day, as a taster of all the lucrative information he could supply in future. He promised: "I'm going to give you three no-balls to prove to you firstly that this is what's happening. They've all been organised, okay?
"This is EXACTLY what's going to happen, you're going to SEE these three things happen. I'm telling you, if you play this right you're going to make a lot of money, believe me!"
LEFT TO RIGHT: Bowler Asif, skipper Butt, bowler Amir, keeper Akmal
NOTW says it can sensationally reveal Majeed identified young Pakistan captain Salman Butt as the ringleader of the band of cheats. He also named wicket keeper Kamran Akmal and boasted he had a total of SEVEN corrupt cricketers in his pocket, all banking huge sums from bookies and betting syndicates.
The scam, fuelled by greed, is a betrayal by the players not only of their sport but of their cricket-crazy homeland.
Fixer tots cash up bundle by bundle
As millions back home in Pakistan struggle against hunger and disease amid devastating floods, the cheats were defiling the reputation of Lord's and lining their own pockets.
In a meeting with NOTW investigators puppet-master Majeed:
BRAGGED that the scam is rife and future games against England this summer are already earmarked for cheating.
CONFESSED his match-fixing round the world had netted customers MILLIONS.
REVEALED how he oversees cheating by using no-balls, specifying how many runs will be scored or conceded in certain overs, with signals such as changing gloves to confirm the fix is on.
ADMITTED he abuses his position as owner of non-league Croydon Athletic FC to launder his illicit gains.
At one stage Majeed told NOTW, our syndicate could make "absolutely millions, millions" by paying him up to £450,000 a time for info on matches, then placing bets on the fixed outcome. And he tried to excuse the players' shameful behaviour, claiming: "These poor boys need to. They're paid peanuts."
Majeed said he had even opened Swiss bank accounts for them to hide their ill-gotten gains. NOTW launched its own investigation two weeks ago after a tip-off. The Pakistan side has long been dogged by match-fixing allegations. Only today has the full shocking extent been laid bare.
MOMENT THAT SHAMED GAME: Star bowler Amir delivers Friday's promised no-ball
Property tycoon Majeed, 35, has a £1.8 million home in Surrey and is a familiar face at cricket grounds around the world. NOTW infiltrated his criminal network posing as wealthy businessmen on the make.
Majeed turned up for the first meeting on Monday, August 16, at the Hilton in London's Park Lane, dressed in jeans and a sweater. He immediately started bragging of his connections with the Pakistani team. "I manage ten of the players," he told the sting team. "I do all their affairs like contracts, sponsorship, marketing, everything. I work very closely with the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board)."
NOTW reporters told him they wanted to organise their own Twenty20 tournament in the Middle East. Majeed claimed he would be able to provide his players for the right fee. When NOTW assured Majeed the players would do well out of it, he immediately said with a wink: "I know what you're talking about because I know what goes on!"
Majeed then hinted at the extent of cheating in the game. . .
REPORTER: "If there's two or three that are on for the other side, the betting side, then good luck - they'll be really happy."
MAJEED: "There's more than two or three. Believe me. It's already set up. That's already there. I'm very wary speaking about this simply because I don't know you guys. I've been dealing with these guys for seven years, okay? Who we deal with and how we deal with it is very, very important. This is the main thing. I'm only dealing with certain people. How we do it and what we do is very, very crucial."
REPORTER: "You're already dealing with another party on this matter? Give us some tips as well if you've got any. Happy to cut us in?"
MAJEED: "Yeah I'll give you tips."
REPORTER: "If there's anything we need to know in the forthcoming match let me know. Happy to pay."
Majeed said he was worried our men could be wearing tape recorders and he would check them out before going further.
IT'S A DEAL: Satisfied Majeed puts money back in case
Two days later at the Bombay Brasserie Indian restaurant in central London, Majeed told the sting team it had begun to gain his trust. He had spent the day at the Oval where Pakistan bowled England out for 233 on the first day of the third Test. After a trusted source vouched for the sting team's credentials, Majeed relaxed and laid his cards on the table. . .
MAJEED: "I do feel that I can speak to you about this, okay? Now, yes. . . there is very big money in it."
REPORTER: "There's still? I know there was, but they clamped down on match fixing I heard."
MAJEED: "They've toned down match-fixing a lot, yeah. They've made it very, very difficult. These guys won't deal with just anybody. The only reason they'll deal with me is because they know I'm professional, they've known me for years.
"I've been doing it with them, the Pakistani team, for about 2½ years. And we've made masses and masses of money."
Later that night Majeed boasted how it was the players who got HIM into match-fixing. He told the sting team: "The players would never tell anybody else. They were the ones who actually approached me about this. This is the beauty of it.
"I was friends with them for four, five years and then they said this happens. I said really?" Majeed leaves with the cash that fixed Lord's Test
Majeed then described how the betting scam operates. He reached into a carrier bag, pulled out a white BlackBerry phone and flicked through a series of messages. "I deal with an Indian party," he said. "They pay me for the information."
Then Majeed explained how many cricket bets are placed on what he called "brackets" - events happening in a group of 10 overs.
If players score well in the first three overs punters would be likely to bet on that continuing for the next seven. But if the fixed players then deliberately STOP scoring or slow down, anybody in on it can "make a killing", said Majeed. The same happens with bowlers giving away runs or throwing no-balls.
Not only is Majeed's information invaluable to syndicates involved in spread betting - where wagers are staked on a range of possible outcomes - it is also golddust for shady bookies looking to manipulate the odds in their favour.
The following night - Thursday August 19 - Majeed demanded £10,000 then revealed to us there would be two no-balls in the following day's Oval play.
That fix was cancelled on the day. So was a promised maiden over by captain Salman Butt on the Saturday - final day of the Test England lost. But days later - with our extra £140,000 in his hands - he delivered the promised goods at Lord's.
On Saturday night a Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Following information from the News of the World we have today arrested a 35-year-old man on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud bookmakers."
Scotland Yard officers on Saturday night visited Lord's and the Pakistan players' London hotel. Police are set to speak to the players today.
In a joint statement issued early Sunday, the International Cricket Council, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Pakistan Cricket Board confirmed the Test would resume on Sunday as planned.
The statement added all three bodies were assisting the police with their inquiries, but as the matter was under investigation they would not be making any further comment.