England county cricketer jailed for match-fixing

Last updated 06:48 18/02/2012

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A fourth cricketer in four months was sent to a British jail on Friday for fixing part of a match, as a judge dealt a fresh blow to the sport's integrity.

Former Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield was jailed for four months after admitting taking 6,000 pounds ($9,200) to intentionally concede runs during a 40 overs English county match in 2009.

"For financial gain, you betrayed the trust placed in you to play honestly and to the best of your ability," judge Anthony Morris said at the Old Bailey in London.

"If, because of corrupt payments, it cannot be guaranteed that every player will play to the best of his ability, the reality is that the enjoyment of many millions of people around the world who watch cricket, whether on television or at cricket grounds, will be destroyed."

Morris said that "no legal domestic betting market appears to have been compromised by your corrupt agreement."

"The inescapable inference is that the person who made the corrupt payment must have taken advantage of this information by seeking to influence a legal overseas market or an illegal market in this country or overseas," he added.

Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed in November for fixing part of a test match against England.

While the Pakistani trio were prosecuted after a newspaper investigation, Westfield was investigated after a tip-off from within the Essex team about the Pro 40 match against Durham in September 2009.

"It is not only the major international stars who will face prosecution if they accept bribes, but also those who play in the domestic leagues as well," said Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Services' Central Fraud Group.

"Devoted sports fans who pay hard-earned money to watch competitive matches have a right to expect players to do their honest best for the team, whether those games take place in the biggest world class arenas, or at their local ground."

Westfield's defence team had told the Old Bailey before sentencing that Essex teammate Danish Kaneria, the former Pakistan cricketer, pressured him into taking the corrupt payment.

Kaneria, who first joined Essex in 2005, was arrested in connection with the case but later released without charge.

"Kaneria and his associates targeted Westfield," Westfield's lawyer Mark Milliken-Smith said. "Westfield was on the verge of the squad, more susceptible for that reason. Less likely perhaps to be able to say no to the club's international star, his future with the club uncertain."

The court was told that other Essex players heard Kaneria mentioning spot-fixing but dismissed what he was saying as "banter".

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"There's ways of making money, you don't have to lose a game," former Essex batsman Varun Chopra recalled Kaneria telling him in an August 2009 phone call.

- AP

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