Three Pakistan cricket players accused of taking part a betting scandal have been charged by the International Cricket Council under its anti-corruption code and suspended until an investigation into the case is concluded.
The ICC charged team captain Salman Butt, and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir under article two of its anti-corruption code which deals with fixing and betting. The council's chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, expressed his extreme disappointment and sadness about the situation but reiterated the council's zero tolerance policy on match-fixing.
"We have been clear that we will not tolerate any sort of corruption within the sport," Lorgat said Friday. "Upholding the integrity of cricket is paramount, is fundamental to every single one of us and we will do whatever is necessary to insure that we maintain integrity in the sport."
The players are accused of taking part in a betting scam, after the British tabloid News of the World showed video of a cricket agent allegedly accepting money in exchange for information of what the players would do at certain points in the game. Reports here say some of that money was found among the possessions of one of the players.
Lorgat told journalists at a press conference in London that he would not be able to give any details of the case or the evidence. "I think I must reinforce as well that this is part of an ongoing criminal investigation and hence we may not be able to answer all of your questions," he said.
The charges related to one game between England and Pakistan at the Lords Cricket ground, according to Ronnie Flanagan, head of the ICC's anti-corruption unit.
"The criminal investigation at this stage, and the disciplinary investigation at this stage relate to what went on at Lords" he said. "We are the investigative body for the ICC, so frankly we will go where the evidence takes us."
Flannagan too would not give details except to say in cases this serious, evidence needs to be beyond reasonable doubt.
"We certainly came to a conclusion that they have a case to answer in our disciplinary arena," he said. "That is not the same as coming in any sense to a finding of guilt on their behalf.
Flannagan also emphasized this case did not point to widespread corruption in cricket, adding that he hopes it might lead to better regulation of betting.
"I do not see this as the tip of an iceberg," Flannagan said. "But I think it is something from which we must learn, and indeed on a wider front, we're quite obviously concentrating on cricket here, but there is perhaps a much wider problem in terms of betting and regulation of betting worldwide."
The ICC's Lorgat said the cricket council has been working hard to ensure Pakistan remains a member. The players reportedly earn less money than their counterparts in other countries, and a terrorist attack in March 2009 on Sri Lanka's cricket team in the Pakistani city of Lahore means the country can not host matches.
"There is a lot of sympathy for Pakistan and its players," said Lorgat. "Not just on the question of money or earnings, but also the fact that the safety and security situation within that country precludes any other international team from touring," he said.
Meanwhile, authorities in Britain questioned the cricketers on Friday. Earlier this week, British police took statements from them and confiscated their cellphones. They have 14 days to appeal the charges and the ban by the International Cricket Council.