LONDON - The spot-fixing case involving three Pakistani cricketers is just one example of the "rampant corruption" sweeping through the game, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are accused of fixing parts of a test match during Pakistan's tour of England in 2010, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.
Speaking on the first full day of the trial in London's Southwark Crown Court, prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee said the "breathtaking" sums of money involved in the illegal betting market meant fixing was rife, especially in South Asia.
"This case reveals a depressing tale of rampant corruption at the heart of international cricket, with the key players being members of the Pakistan cricket team," Jafferjee said.
"Those involved in this plot — which is effectively what a conspiracy is — lent themselves willingly, and for financial gain, to fix not just the outcome of the match but in particular, aspects within each match on a day-by-day basis."
Butt and Asif deny conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments between Aug. 15-29 last year, with the case centring on the fourth test at Lord's. Amir and the trio's agent Mazhar Majeed, who is charged with being the middleman in the alleged plot, are not required to appear in court.
Sparked by an undercover investigation conducted by the now-defunct British tabloid News of the World, the three players are accused of receiving money to ensure no-balls were deliberately bowled at a specified time in the match.
"It is the prosecution's case that ... each of them was well at it, the two bowlers (Asif and Amir) being orchestrated by their captain (Butt) and the captain's agent, Majeed, to bowl three no-balls at a prearranged point in the game," Jafferjee said.
"The bowlers were willing participants so that they could all profit, those lower down the ladder probably profiting less than those at the top."
Jafferjee said the fixing was orchestrated "at the expense of the integrity of the game."
"You will not only hear but literally see — captured on covert cameras — large sums of money changing hands for the promise of those prearranged no-balls made to the journalist and very definitely delivered by the bowlers Asif and Amir," he said.
Butt told police in an interview that the timing of three no-balls, bowled exactly when Majeed told the News of the World journalist they would be bowled, was just "a series of freakish occurrences," the court heard.