Match-fixing could become a criminal offence in India and Sri Lanka for the first time if pressure by the International Cricket Council persuades governments to legislate against corruption.
Cricket’s anti-corruption unit are currently in Sri Lanka to lobby the government to make match fixing a criminal offence as they investigate cases of corruption on the island.
Alex Marshall, the chairman of the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, met with the country’s prime minister and president last week. Telegraph Sport understands he is due for further meetings with government officials later this month and politicians have offered more resources for fighting corruption as several serious investigations reach a crucial point.
Some of those are in Sri Lanka, another is in Hong Kong, where the ICC announced on Monday three players had been charged with 19 counts of breaching the anti-corruption code including offences linked to a game against Scotland and at the 2016 World Twenty20 in India.
The ICC are hoping that by making match fixing, and also approaching players to fix, criminal offences in Sri Lanka they can bring greater powers of investigation to bear while potential prison sentences would deter would be corrupters. They hope to have similar discussions with Indian officials and believe other countries will follow suit if Sri Lanka takes the first step.
Match fixing is a criminal offence in Australia and South Africa under specific sports laws. In the UK courts use the bribery act which is how Mervin Westfield and the three Pakistan players were sentenced but there is no criminal offence for match fixing anywhere in the sub-continent so there is not the same police support the ICC would receive elsewhere in the world.
With police help the ICC believe they can make life difficult for fixers in other ways such as examination of bank accounts, tax returns, visa status for overseas travel and freezing of assets.
The ACU is also set to make more widespread use the charge of failing to support an investigation so if suspected fixers, either players or officials, do not hand over mobile phones or other computer records they will face punishment and the public shame of being associated and banned for involvement in corruption.
Sri Lankan cricket is in a state of paralysis at the moment with board elections on hold with three groups trying to take over. An interim board was appointed by the ICC in February to run the game in the meantime.
Former president Thilanga Sumathipala is standing again but his application was opposed in court by a rival alleging he has links with bookmaking. His father is a bookmaker and he has admitted this publicly in the past.
In the meantime, the ICC are investigating fixing allegations in Sri Lanka and believe enlisting government help will make their job easier. It is believed the whole system needs cleaning up with Sri Lanka domestic cricket seen as the vulnerable point when fixers can get their claws into young players. With the Sri Lanka national team struggling, the negative publicity of any match fixing investigation, and potential subsequent public backlash, could force the government to look as if it is making a stand by making it a criminal offence.
The ICC investigations in Sri Lanka are separate to the Al Jazeera documentary aired earlier this year which alleged the pitch for the first Test against England next month in Galle could be doctored by fixers. A man who was described as the groundsman has been suspended by Sri Lanka Cricket based on evidence in the programme and England have been assured the pitch preparation will be closely monitored. They were briefed by ACSU officials on Sunday night in Dambulla.
Marshall, the former chief constable of Hampshire police, took over as chairman of the ACU last year and has launched several major investigations around the world as cricket looks to take on fixing and react to the threats spread by the springing up of Twenty20 leagues around the world.
The ICC has long feared the players from associate nations are more susceptible for approaches from fixers and charged three from Hong Kong yesterday. Fast bowler Irfan Ahmed has been charged with nine offences linked to games against Scotland and Canada in January 2014, a match against Zimbabwe in 2014 and at ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in July 2015 as well as one charge of “seeking, accepting, offering or agreeing to accept a bribe or other Reward to fix or contrive or otherwise improperly influence the result,” of a match at the World Twenty20 tournament in 2016. He was banned for two years for breaching the anti corruption code in 2016.
His brother, Nadeem Ahmed, when played against India in the Asia Cup last month, was charged with five offences covering the same time period as was Haseeb Amjad. (Courtesy The Telegraph)