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3 Arrests Made in Pakistan Cricket Scandal

Three people were arrested by British customs officials in connection with a match-fixing investigation into Pakistan's cricket team as three of its top players were called to London for questioning over the scandal.

Authorities arrested two men and a woman, all from London, as part of a probe into money laundering and are now free on bail, according to British officials.

The implicated Pakistani players had been practicing in southwest England amid a fury of controversy over the betting allegations. But the team's manager, Yawar Saeed, said captain Salman Butt and star bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif will take a break Wednesday to be questioned by cricket officials and Pakistan's ambassador to Britain.

The British newspaper News of the World says it paid a cricket agent nearly $230,000 to know when the bowlers would make illegal throws during a game against England.

The scandal is unprecedented in England and has shocked cricket fans there, said Scyld Berry, who covers cricket for London's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"The situation is more serious than it has ever been for cricket in England because there have been many episodes of match-fixing and spot-fixing occurring in Asia, but it's never really affected the English or British follower before," said Berry.

On a videotape of the undercover sting organized by the News of the World, the agent said he worked for a so-called "Indian party" that pays him for information. Scotland Yard investigators are looking into the identity of that person.

India's role in illegal betting came further into focus Tuesday as two Australian Cricket stars said an Indian illegal bookmaker targeted them during last year's tour of England.

Shane Watson told a press conference in Sydney that he immediately informed team managers after a man approached him at his hotel.

"And I actually didn't think too much more of it until I found out a bit more information that he was actually one of the illegal bookmakers that was trying to sort of get involved," Watson said.

India is the driving force behind the sport's illicit betting trade, said the Sunday Telegraph's Berry. Gambling is illegal in India, where much of the country's money moves in what Berry called a "black economy."

"These factors combine to make sure that there's a lot of money sloshing around in India, and that money can be turned into profit by betting on matches which are broadcast in India." Berry said.

Observers said the credibility of Indian and Pakistani cricket was tarnished 10 years ago in a major match-fixing scandal discovered by New Delhi police. Andrew Miller, the UK editor of ESPN's Web site, said that case was badly handled and essentially signaled that illicit gambling is tolerated.

"The teams involved more or less got away with it," said Miller. "There were three captains of international sides [who] were banned for life, and one bowler. But generally speaking, large portions of the people who were implicated largely got away with it."

Pakistani players are particularly susceptible to corruption because of the pressures of poverty and family, Miller added.

"When you consider that they have a finite period in which to really maximize on their athletic potential, from 18 to 33, that's 15 years out of 70-80," said Miller. "Also, the nature of Pakistan society, families are very close knit. If you've got one guy that's a superstar, that money that he earns is going to be spread across his family in a way that you wouldn't possibly get in a Western society."

At the center of the latest scandal is 18-year-old Pakistani Mohammad Asif, one of the sport's biggest stars. For him, cricket was a way out of poverty. He could be banned for life if found guilty of intentionally throwing a "no-ball" in exchange for money.

The International Cricket Council has promised "prompt and decisive action" if the allegations prove to be true. One lawyer in eastern Pakistan is already taking action. He filed a petition to the Lahore High Court, accusing the Cricket players of treason.