Tainted trio barred from practice, to face PCB inquiry
London/Karachi: Pakistan`s tainted trio of Test captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif were on Tuesday barred from practice and summoned to face PCB`s internal inquiry at the High Commission in London as the `spot-fixing` scandal grew in proportion with the arrest of three more persons.
The Lahore High Court on a petition filed by a local lawyer over the spot fixing allegations against some Pakistani cricketers has summoned them and the PCB chairman for a hearing on September 7.
The court has also summoned the federal sport minister besides seven players whose names have cropped up in the spot fixing scandal that broke out last Saturday late night after the arrest of a 35-year old Pakistani man settled in the United Kingdom.
On a day of swift developments, the players were barred from team practice in Taunton amidst intense speculation that they could be suspended by the PCB under pressure from their British counterparts.
Even as the spotlight was on the players, three persons, including a woman, were questioned as part of an investigation into money laundering before being released on bail.
Two men and a woman, all from London, were questioned last night as part of an investigation into money laundering before being released on bail, HM Revenue and Customs said in a statement.
A 35-year-old woman from the Croydon area along with a 49-year-old man in North London were arrested to investigate a second, separate, criminal investigation into allegations of cricket match fixing.
Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said that the three players did not have nets with the rest of the team because they were preparing for a meeting at the Pakistan HighCommission in London tomorrow.
"The three are not practicing today and they have to go to London to attend the meeting at the High Commission in connection with the ongoing investigations into spot-fixing. They will face PCB`s internal inquiry committee," Yawar said.
Although Yawar did not specify whether the three players would be subjected to another round of interrogation by the Scotland Yard, there was speculation that the players could be questioned again. However, there was no official confirmation yet.
Pakistan has retained all the three players named in the scandal in their one-day squad for the series against England and the team plays a practice match at Taunton on September 2.
A Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman said today that no player would be suspended until a final inquiry report into the charges against them was delivered to the board by Thursday.
The spokesman declined to comment when asked if the accused players would be considered for the first T20 International on Sunday if the report didn`t come in by that time.
Yawar said that the three players had been called to the High Commission where the High Commissioner has invited a leading British legal expert to be present along with PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt.
"In all probability, the PCB chief and the High Commissioner will talk to the players in front of the legal expert and take a decision on future course of action in the investigations," one team source said.
He said the decision to not allow the three players to practice with the team came after a meeting held between one-day captain Shahid Afridi, Yawar, coach Waqar Younis and the PCB Chairman.
"The idea apparently is that the players accused of fixing should be kept away from media glare and have been told to remain indoors in the hotel to avoid more controversies," the source added.
The decision to bar the players from practicing comes amid strong indications that the Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to suspend the three tainted players.
Geo TV reported that the PCB has taken this decision and it may be implemented before Thursday.
There was more trouble for the Pakistan team with another report claiming that Scotland Yard investigators last weekend recovered wads of cash worth 50,000 pounds in captain Butt`s hotel room at the Marriott at Swiss Cottage in London.
Of this money, 21,000 were in South African Rands and UAE Dirhams while the remaining were in pounds, according to a report in `Mumbai Mirror`.
When asked about the cash, Butt had reportedly told the investigators that it had been collected for his sister`s trousseau.
Sources in the team are now saying that Test captain Butt was responsible for the clout that bookie and player agent Mazhar Majeed enjoyed in the team. Asif had also reportedly told the investigators that it was Butt who had introduced Majeed to the players.
Meanwhile, ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said the world body was expecting that the investigation would be over by the weekend.
"We`re busy with the Metropolitan Police and hopefully before the weekend arrives we can get to some sort of a conclusion, but this is a live issue which moves with the hour, every hour and it`s an individual`s right that you`re innocent until proven guilty," he said.
"At the moment, it is also appropriate that the game continues. We shouldn`t let everyone suffer because of a couple of individuals that might have got caught up in corrupt practices. The vast majority of players are not guilty of any such behaviour. They play the sport in the right spirit, and there are many fans who want to watch the game," he said.
Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government would ascertain whether the allegations were part of a conspiracy but would hand exemplary punishment if the players are found guilty.
"This incident should not have happened. We want to ascertain if there is any conspiracy against the team or to defame Pakistan. There have been conspiracies against Pakistan in the past - we will consider that angle also. We want to get the facts and get them exonerated," he said.
"If any player is found involved, we will make an example out of him," Malik said.