Pakistan trio in betting scam claims released

The three Pakistan cricketers at the centre of match-fixing allegations were released without charge by police last night.

Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were all questioned separately by detectives at Kilburn police station in north west London.

Speaking outside the station after they had left, their lawyer, Elizabeth Robertson, said they had attended voluntarily and at no time were they under arrest.

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She said the men would continue to co-operate fully with police and the International Cricket Council (ICC), which has already charged them under their anti-corruption code and provisionally banned them from playing in any match.

The trio say they are innocent but have been charged with "various offences" under Article 2 of the ICC's anti-corruption code relating to alleged irregular behaviour during and in relation to the Fourth Test between England and Pakistan.

In a statement released on behalf of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the three men, Ms Robertson said: "Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt of the Pakistan cricket team have today been questioned under caution by the Metropolitan Police.

"They voluntarily attended Kilburn police station to answer questions relating to allegations published by the News of the World.

"At no time were they placed under arrest. They were free to leave at any time, answered all the questions that were put to them and have been released without charge or conditions."

She urged for the players' right to a fair and proper hearing be respected, adding: "The PCB, together with the three players, will continue to co-operate fully with the Metropolitan Police and the ICC investigations, and look forward to a timely and satisfactory outcome."

The questioning of the cricketers was staggered, with all three being picked up and dropped off by a blacked-out 4x4. They used different exits and entrances at the police station in a bid to escape the throng of journalists.

Earlier cricket chiefs said the claims of no-balls being bowled to order in last month's Lord's Test match were not "the tip of the iceberg".

When asked at a Lord's Press conference whether it was, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: "We don't believe this is widespread." And Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the head of the ICC's anti-corruption unit, agreed.

The ICC action follows newspaper allegations that a middleman accepted 150,000 to arrange for Pakistan players to deliberately bowl no-balls during the match.

Mr Lorgat said: "Upholding the integrity of cricket is fundamental to every single one of us."

The charges mean the sportsmen are "immediately barred from participating in all cricket and related activities until the case has been concluded".

He denied there was any kind of conspiracy against Pakistani cricket, saying: "I can assure you that there is absolutely no truth to that suggestion."

Pakistan's top diplomat in Britain attacked the ICC yesterday, accusing it of "just playing to the public gallery".

Wajid Hasan, the High Commissioner in London, has said he believed the trio played no part in an alleged plot to bowl no-balls to order during Pakistan's Lord's defeat.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I met the cricketers for two hours, cross-questioned them, got to the bottom of it and concluded that they were innocent, and that's what I said to the media."

"The ICC had no business to take this action. The ICC is just playing to the public gallery."