Players’ assets probed as Hameed claims foul

Karachi/London: The raging spot-fixing scandal on Monday prompted a concerned Pakistan government to launch investigations into the assets of national cricketers even as former opener Yasir Hameed claimed he was tricked into giving the statements which accused his teammates of fixing “almost every match”.

Hameed backtracked on the allegations against his teammates and claimed he was blackmailed to stand by them by the British tabloid ‘News of the World’ but a livid Shahid Afridi, Pakistan’s Twenty20 and ODI captain, lashed out at him for being mentally a teenager.

“Yasir Hameed is about 30 or 31 - but mentally he is 15 or 16. We have known him for a long time and we know what to expect from him. He has done this sort of thing many times. Is he unreliable? Well, he is sitting with someone he does not know and gives these messages out, so, yes. I don’t know who he was sitting with or in what situation he gave this message,” Afridi said.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) moved in quickly and issued a directive to its regional offices to prepare details of players’ vehicles, plots, agricultural farms, bungalows, national as well as international bank accounts and all the movable and non-movable assets.

It also asked its regional income tax offices to ascertain details of income of Pakistan captains, coaches, managers, commentators, selectors and other office-holders for the last five years and provide their national tax numbers as well.

Israr Rauf, a senior FBR official in Lahore, said that the regional income tax offices have been directed to submit details of the national cricket team members’ income sources and check whether the players or officials are submitting their income tax returns or not.

He said that all the players and officials will also be asked to submit wealth returns by September 30.

Rauf said details have also been sought from the Pakistan Cricket Board regarding the amounts paid to its Chairman Ijaz Butt, other office-holders, selectors, players, coaches, managers and journalists during the last five years.

The damage has already been done but Pakistan’s World Cup winning captain Imran Khan blamed the PCB for the current mess saying that the humiliation would have been avoided had the Board handed “exemplary” punishments to players found guilty of match-fixing years ago.

“I am talking about 1993 when match-fixing allegations appeared for the first time and the first investigation took place. I wish, they had followed it right through and taken the steps, then we would not be facing this humiliation right now,” Imran said.

Imran also feared that if the allegations of spot-fixing turn out to be true, it will be very “damaging” for Pakistan cricket, which is already suffering a lot due to the volatile security situation in the country. If these allegations are proved to be correct then it opens a Pandora’s box,” he said.

“We don’t know (the truth) really at the moment and hope they are not true otherwise there will be lot of repercussions - very damaging to the Pakistan cricket. It’s very difficult and sad time for Pakistan cricket because these developments are very demoralising,” he added.

But the man who gave a stunning twist to the entire sordid saga, Hameed denied giving any interview in which he had accused his team-mates of throwing matches for money.

He said the undercover ‘News of the World’ reporter who spoke to him posing as a sponsorship agent sent him intimidating text messages to stick to the comments shown in the video released yesterday.

Hameed was summoned to the Pakistan High Commission in England for a meeting with High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan in London on Sunday.

After the meeting, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s legal advisor Tafazzul Rizvi released a statement on behalf of Hameed.

In the statement, Hameed said that he was offered money and even blackmailed to stand by the remarks attributed to him in the video which he claims was shot without his knowledge.

“I would like to respond to comments attributed to me by the News of the World today. I wish to stress I have never been approached by the NOTW and neither did I approach anyone connected with the News of the World to disclose any allegations concerning the Pakistan cricket team or any other players,” Hameed said in his statement.

Hameed claimed that he was having dinner with a friend at the Holiday Inn Nottingham on the evening of Monday August 30 and was approached by a man who introduced himself as Abid Khan and offered to arrange a sponsorship deal for him (Yasir) with ETIHAD Airways.

“I have now seen a photograph of the so called Abid Khan and have discovered that he is Mazhar Mahmood (NOTW’s undercover reporter).

“Naturally I was interested in what he had to say and we began a conversation. He offered me at least 50,000 pounds for the deal, which was for 6”x3” ETIHAD sticker at the back of the cricket bat plus TV and billboard advertisements in the UAE,” he said.

“He also asked me for names of 4 more players who may be interested in a similar deal I thought of Umar Gul, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam,” Hameed added.