No jail, just liberation for fixer Lou Vincent

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 21:36 02/07/2014
Lou Vincent
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DISGRACED: Former Black Cap Lou Vincent.

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Disgraced cricketer Lou Vincent knows he was lucky to escape being jailed for match-fixing, and says he feels liberated by his confession.

The former New Zealand opener spoke to Newstalk ZB after being banned from cricket for life by the England and Wales Cricket Board, for admitting to fixing matches in the UK. He didn't name any other players allegedly involved, for legal reasons, referring only to one as ''my hero''.

''Players have gone to jail for this in the UK, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Even though I was putting myself out there to perhaps be locked up, as a human being I felt completely and utterly free for the first time in a long time,'' he said.

Vincent insisted there was no plea bargain when he told all to anti-corruption investigators in a sworn statement, in which he claimed his cricketing hero first persuaded him to fix in the now-defunct Indian Cricket League in 2008.

He was under no obligation to confess, but said he did it for peace of mind.

''Yes I could have kept quiet but I would have lived the rest of my life looking behind me and going 'when's that phone call going to come again', and am I going to be pestered again by the authorities.

''It's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life. But I also know that by putting my hand up and telling the truth, it will be an eye opening experience for people to understand what's going on out there.''

Vincent had hoped to set up the Lou Vincent Cricket Academy on his return to Auckland with his English fiancee Susie Markham, but is now banned from all involvement in the game. He lives at Kaukapakapa and is employed as a part-time builder.

''In 20-30 years time when my kids have children and they have young kids that want to play cricket. I can't take them to a Black Caps game in 30 years' time, I can't coach, I can't offer my skills as a cricketer. That's it, I've got to completely sever the past.''

Vincent has two daughters from his first marriage to Elly Riley, who also gave evidence to anti-corruption investigators of Vincent accepting money and being led astray by his ''hero''.

Vincent said he initially rebuffed his first approach to fix matches at the ICL.

A man claiming he was offering a gear sponsorship deal called Vincent to his hotel room. Instead Vincent was offered ''a present'' in the form of a prostitute who he initially thought was the man's wife.

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''That's when the penny dropped that this is starting to look a bit dodgy. I declined, then he handed over a big wad of cash, US$15,000 and said this is down payment for our sponsorship, we will sponsor you for life.''

He said he went to the room of his New Zealand agent, and said the approach was reported to the relevant authorities. He then went to see a team-mate, his ''hero''.

''There was this eerie silence then a deep breath. I always remember the face looking over me saying 'that's a good cover because now you're working for me'. That's when my life changed.

''I couldn't say no, this guy who's my hero who took me under his wing. He was a dear friend and I was so empowered by his presence and aura of a legend who I'd had the honour of playing cricket with. Now it's 'yes, sir'.''

That meeting happened with four games left for his team in the ICL. Vincent said he was given clear instructions and the fix was always the same, as an opener he would face 20-25 balls, score 10-15 runs then get out.

Then one night he got it wrong, as he told TV3's Third Degree.

''That was a horrendous night really. I was on 10 or 15 off 20-odd balls and it was time to get out. The person I was working for was sitting on the sideline. Against the left-arm spinner, I danced down the wicket to try and miss it and the ball hit something funny in the footmarks and it ended up hitting the lower middle part of the bat and going over the bowler's head and the fielder fumbled it over for six.

''I could tell straight away that I'd done wrong. I got the phone call to visit the person I was working for. I walked into the room and there were three of us in there. He sat me down and walked away and grabbed his cricket bat and I'm surprised he didn't follow through and hit me. He stopped the bat above his head, walking towards me with this killer look in his eyes, I thought 'this is pretty serious'.''

Vincent said he was promised US$50,000 per game for the last four ICL games, but he never saw a cent.

He continued on to English county cricket and the fixing continued, for which he was later banned.

Asked why he carried on doing it, he said: ''I felt greedy for the first time in my life. I had a chip on my shoulder with my career. I left New Zealand a bit heartbroken and angry.

''All of a sudden I thought 'I'm going to start making some really big money now, stuff the world.''

- The Dominion Post

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