Salman Butt denies he has `been caught` at fixing trial

London: Former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt maintained his innocence as three days of intense questioning in the spot-fixing trial came to an end on Wednesday.

Prosecutor Aftab Jafferjee said Butt had "been caught" and was "well at it" during Wednesday`s session at London`s Southwark crown court, but Butt stood his ground and said he had played no part in the alleged fixing in last year`s Lord`s Test against England.

Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif are facing charges of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to obtain and accept corrupt payments after allegedly conspiring with agent Mazhar Majeed, teenage bowler Mohammad Amir and other people unknown to bowl pre-planned no-balls.

Butt and Asif, who is expected to take the stand on Thursday, deny the charges. The jury can only give a verdict on events directly related to the no-balls.

The court heard on Wednesday that in the early hours of the night before the Lord`s match began, there were 20 calls or texts between Butt and Majeed, 25 between Amir and Majeed and four between Butt, Asif and Amir.

"The Lord`s fix was on, Mr Butt, in the early hours of the morning and you know it don`t you," Jafferjee said. Butt denied any knowledge of it. "It`s all going on behind your back is it?" Jafferjee asked sarcastically. "Yes," Butt replied.

"It`s the three of you who are all (planning) the no-balls Mr Butt," Jafferjee continued. "You are all saying what is going to go on, isn`t it?" Butt responded: "I`m not part of it."

The fixing allegations were brought to light during a covert sting operation by undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood for the now-defunct British tabloid The News of the World.

The prosecutor told how Majeed sent a text message to the undercover reporter just before the third pre-planned no-ball was due to be delivered. As Amir eventually reduced England to 47-5, Majeed warned the journalist that Butt might tell Amir not to bowl that third no-ball now because of the form he was in.

Jafferjee concluded: "He (Majeed) was talking about you because you are in there controlling the players and particularly the youngest player out there - the impressionable Amir, Mr Butt. And you have been caught."

Butt was also interrogated strongly about text messages Majeed sent him during the Oval Test asking the then Pakistan captain to bat out a maiden over, which he subsequently did not do.

Jafferjee said he could not understand why Butt tolerated Majeed`s requests even though he had apparently told him before to stop them because he didn`t approve.

"You are lying your head off to this jury aren`t you Mr Butt?" Jafferjee said, to which Butt again stood firm: "No I`m not."

The defense closed the day by reading character witness statements from former Pakistan coach and Australia fast bowler Geoff Lawson and the team`s fitness trainer David Dwyer.

Further statements from ex-Pakistan spinner Abdul Qadir and family members are to be read on Thursday morning, before Asif takes to the witness stand.

Bureau Report

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